What It’s All About

Ellie, a high school student, remembers admiring her older sister’s artwork.  She could see how her sister loved to paint and how people responded to her work.  She wanted to draw and paint too.  But, Ellie’s first experience with painting landed her in trouble.  She remembers she was seven or eight years old and ran outside to paint on her family’s deck.  A rainbow of splotches landed on the deck, about as much as made it to her paper. The family was not pleased.  But, despite this not so glowing start, Ellie continued on.  She experimented with all kinds of art supplies and surfaces.  She started art lessons to learn her craft.  Ellie is not caught up in too much in the technical, but understands that she needs the ability to create objects so they “seem like they have life in them”.  Paper and canvas are fine, but Ellie sees the walls in her bedroom as her favorite surface so far.

The artist’s journey that began with following her sister is now Ellie’s adventure.


She is discovering her own person, in love with art.  As Ellie says today, “Making art became a part of me”.


Vibrant Contrasts


16″ x 20″Acrylic on Canvas

Brianna has painted a city scene full of contrasts.  It displays the human energy of a city and yet the scene is uninhabited. There are straight lines and curves, arrows and open spaces, black and white, abstract and figurative elements.    This piece creates whimsy and mystery.

Often in a painting the more contrast represented, the more interesting the painting.  It certainly captures my imagination.  Does it capture yours as well?




Acrylic on Canvas  16″ x 20″

Maggie began her first abstract painting with gusto.  According to Maggie “it was great to experience new materials, layering and mixing color”.

Some of the new tools and materials;

palette knives, metallic acrylic paint, old, worn out bristle brushes, a comb and a brush recycled from a home hair color kit


Still Lives?

bdeer copy

24″x 24″ “Toy Box” Acrylic on Canvas by Claudia

Last post, Betsy’s work illuminated the benefits of painting still life to isolate a challenging skill, by practicing with still life objects.  Betsy’s work is exceptional, but her intent was simple.

Today, Claudia’s piece takes still life out of the realm of fruit and bottles and brings a conceptual intention to still life painting.  In other words, this painting is about conveying more than the fruits of technical achievement.

What do you think the artist had in mind?

Boring Old Still Life?

bBetsy still copy

12″x12″ Acrylic on Canvas by Betsy

Why make the effort to paint still life?   To learn.

What might I learn?   To work from life.  To mix color.  To create a composition. To handle reflections. To understand color and mix color intensity.  To vary edges.  To understand values…


In this piece, Betsy concentrated on value work.

Betsy innately understands line.  Her line work is fluid and expressive.  The rendering of lights, darks and midtones does not come as easily to her.  Painting still live offered Betsy the opportunity to isolate the value work. To squint her eyes and understand each shade of value and the shapes they made in the bowl, bottle and carrot.  It allowed her practice with the values within each object. In turn, the values help to create an illusion of three-dimensional form.

I think that Betsy’s vibrant color and expression transcends the three common objects she used for this exercise.  What she learned here will carry over to her next piece, whatever she chooses to make.

Understanding how to paint a boring old still life can help you create magic in all of your work.  It can allow you to concentrate on a particular skill while employing those that you have already integrated into your artistic bag of tricks.

OR you can set out to arrange a still life that is anything but expected.  Check back next time…

Ask the Art Professor: Should I pursue a career in fine art?

Clara Lieu

“Ask the Art Professor”  is an advice column for visual artists, now featured in  the Huffington Post .  This is your chance to ask a professional artist/educator your questions about being an artist, the creative process, career advice, etc. Submit your question by emailing me at  clara(at)claralieu.com , or by commenting here on this blog. All questions will be posted anonymously, and you’ll receive notification when your question is online.  Read an archive of past articles  here .

“I am a lifelong self-taught artist who has been accepted into a number of fine arts programs, including a BFA program at a local university. I’m really happy about this, but I feel torn. I have done many mundane jobs in my life and always promised myself that I would leave it behind and seek something more creative as a means of living. Now that I have that chance, I feel hesitant. Part of…

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“More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth.” ~Napoleon Hill

The story of Midas has been retold for centuries to warn children of the dangers of greed. In the myth, the great king wishes for the power to turn all that he touches into gold, and inadvertently loses the thing that he holds most dear as his daughter becomes a golden statue beneath his embrace. The myth actually did not inspire my original concept for this painting, but once I had finished, the allusion was so crystal clear that I couldn’t ignore it. As for my interpretation, the gold is climbing up her (well, my) neck as though it is about to suffocate her me, creating a feeling of distress as the gold creeps closer to the mouth.

So, what’s up with the title? At first, I wanted the title to be the name of Midas’s daughter (which could be Aurelia, Zoe, or Marigold depending on which version you read). Then, as I reread the myth, I learned that all the gold created by Midas was dumped in a river and flowed downstream to the kingdom of Lydia, which became incredibly wealthy. The name Lydia stuck out to me because 1) it’s a girl’s name so I could keep the subtle reference to Midas’s daughter, and 2) Lydia is a nickname for Claudia. As I hinted above, I used myself as the model for the piece, making this my first semi-self portrait. I wouldn’t count it as a full self-portrait because I didn’t try too hard to keep the features exact and also because I didn’t look much like myself in the photo reference in the first place. Similarly, Lydia is close but not quite my name, thus it seemed like the perfect title.

The piece was an ominous portrayal of the future consequences of the vanity and materialism ailing our society.  It is the first of many in a new series portraying the sources of fear and distress unique to each individual.  I’m excited for this new line of inspiration!


PS: Interested in a print? Want to give me a “like”? Check the piece out here http://www.bluecanvas.com/art-detail/492281

From:The Wandering Youth

The Troll


This is a terrific new piece by Mackenzie aptly called “The Troll”

Mackenzie chose the objects for this still life and placed them herself. She then used soft pastels to complete her painting.  I think the painting bursts with life, even though it is a “still” life.