Saturday, March 28, 2015

This Week's Guest Artist, Malia Zaidi, comes to us from Pittsburgh!

Web sites, social media etc:

I met Malia through Etsy's Arteam, she is a fellow Etsyan artist and has been a pleasure to interview. Upbeat, fun, optimistic and thoughtful, and she loves to read!!!

Malia, tell us a little about what you create:

I paint oil landscapes in an impressionist style. My work is often inspired by places I have visited or photos I see, which leave a lasting impression on me. I am particularly interested in creating something that conveys a sense of openness and liveliness through color and composition.

Would you like to give us an inside view of your process or technique?

I generally paint using photos to give myself at least an outline of how the painting should be composed. A thinly tinted wash of pigmented linseed oil is the first layer, then I paint more thickly onto the wet canvas. I started out with acrylics, but found that I like the texture and malleability of the oil paints better. Once I have painted the larger areas, I use small brushes to add details, such as a stroke of white for the sail of a distant ship, or flecks of red and yellow, for fields of flowers.

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught? And/or How did you get started?

I actually studied German and Global Studies, and as an artist am self-taught. I have been painting for quite a while, but my interest in making art began with charcoal drawings.

Where do you do your creative work?

I work in a room in my house, which has many windows and good light (the windows are great, also, to get rid of any oil fumes!)

How often do you get to do your creative work?

I try to complete about one painting a week. It depends on the size. If I am working with very small canvases, such as the 6x6 inch ones, I tend to paint two or three.

How do you get started?

Nowadays, with the internet, it is so great to be able to peruse photos of different places, and to do a bit of armchair traveling for inspiration. I also like to do small sketches to test how an idea might look, without setting it down on canvas.

How do you define art or creativity?

Creativity doesn't have to mean artistry, as far as I am concerned. There are many types of creative thinking and endeavors. Scientists are creative, just as painters or writers or actors are. It is as much about making something as it is about the idea of doing so. I am very flexible when it comes to defining such an elusive concept. A cook can be creative in preparing a family meal, just as (or sometimes more than) an artist, or someone typically associated with creativity.

What motivates you?

On most 'painting days' I do not need special motivation. Painting is relaxing and enjoyable for me. I do it for myself and for my family, not necessarily for my business, thought of course if all three align, that is quite exciting.
The sensation of mixing oils, of finding the right consistency, and even the motion of working my brush against the canvas, serve as motivation to remain consistent in creation of new work.

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

I like to draw, but I do not do more than a rough sketch, or often just an outline of what I intend on painting. Independently of painting, I like quick gesture drawings or smeared charcoal sketches, just to toy around with other media on occasion.

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise you, inspire you or repulse you?

Good question! I am a docent at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and have, through my studies there, been able to gain a grudging appreciation for a fair amount of contemporary art, which previously puzzled or irritated me. Nonetheless, my favorite artists remain the big name Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Van Gogh. I am also quite fond of the ethereal Pre-Raphaelite works by Leighton and Waterhouse, as well as some Rococo artists such as Fragonard (his 'Girl Reading' and 'The Swing' are definite favorites).
Essentially, color, light, and movement are all aspects, which make a work of art intriguing to me.

Can you tell us about some of your successes and challenges?

I think there is almost always a point when I am painting, where all I see is flat planes of color, and I feel certain this one can be scrapped. For the most part, that feeling changes, once I start applying details with smaller brushes, or add texture, but I think some uncertainty is not such a bad thing. I tend to feel a painting is a success when my family enjoys it, and I am very fortunate that they are an encouraging lot.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

Sites like Etsy and FineArtAmerica make sharing art and creative projects a communal experience, which I found intriguing. Deciding to put my art up on these sites was a decision initially motivated only by the desire to share, to receive feedback, not so deeply focused on the business side of things. That being said, I think my paintings can appeal to people simply because they are cheerful and bright, and my hope in creating them and for people choosing to have them in their homes, is that they will function almost as a small window to a place with a blue sky and sunshine.

Is there an artist or person either fictional or real you would most want to meet? What would you want to do with that person?

Good question, there are so many. I suppose it would depend a bit on my mood:-) I would like to meet J.K. Rowling, because I grew up reading her books like so many of my peers, and it would be fun to just have tea with her and chat about books and all sorts. The artist Andy Warhol would also appeal to me, as someone who seemed clever and witty, and who didn't take himself or his art too seriously.

What book are you currently reading/or/ do you have any favorite books or books that "changed your life"? What did you like about it/them?

A dangerous question for someone who is as book-obsessed as I am:-) It is hard to choose just one, but a few of my favorites are Pride and Prejudice, The Princess Bride, and the Harry Potter books, which were a big part of my teenage years. I am a writer, too, so reading is very important to me. I am constantly reading and looking for new books, which can have a considerable impact on creativity and imagination. I look for strong, intriguing characters. If the plot is intersting, that's another plus, but for me it's about the characters and their development.

Tell us which artist either currently living or from history would you most like to have dinner with. Where would you eat, what might you order and what would you talk about?

I think I would perhaps meet Gustav Klimt. We would go to Café Central in Vienna, and have cake and he could regale me with stories about his sitters, all those society ladies, and their secret affairs:-)

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?

In terms of paintings, I am working on seascapes inspired by a recent trip to Cornwall, England. I love painting a broad expanse of blue sky meeting blue sea, and adding a quick white dash for the sail of a ship or the long craggy shore with a small patch of the beach and fields of green and yellow beyond.

Do you have any other creative pursuits/outlets?

I am also working on getting my first novel, a historical mystery called, "A Poisonous Journey" published, which hopefully will happen by summer. So keep an eye out, please!

What is the most interesting thing about you?

Oh, I don''t really know what to say... I was born in the US, but spent much of my childhood in Germany, where my mother is from, which has certainly shaped who I am. We often traveled, and go back every year, and it is from these trips that I often get my inspiration for paintings.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thanks for reading! And thank you, Sue, for featuring me on your blog!

The pleasure is mine Malia! Thanks for your fun and thought provoking answers.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Today's Guest Artist Deb Babcock, comes to us from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and St. George, Utah!

Welcome Deb!

Deb's business is Blue Sky Pottery & Blue Sky Fine Art

Where can we find you on the internet?

...and a bunch more – keep, bestie, google+…..

Tell us a little about what you create:

I'm a two media artist working both in ceramics and watercolors. My pottery is primarily functional pieces – dinnerware, serving pieces, baking dishes, etc. but also includes some decorative, sculptural pieces of art. I've been doing pottery since about 2001, and just recently got back to painting which I had done in high school and college a little.

Would you like to give us an inside view of your process or technique?

My pottery is either wheel-thrown from a porcelain/stoneware clay mixture and electric fired to 2200 degrees F so it is durable enough for everyday use. I make my own glazes and am known for a highly decorative exterior on many of my cups, plates and bowls.

My watercolor paintings are mostly abstract using lots of primary colors, although I have several floral paintings and quite a few depicting my version of the aspen trees found throughout the mountains here.

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught?

My art education is via some classes through college in art history, drawing, pottery, painting, and the like as well as yearly workshops to hone a skill or learn a new one. My degree is in business and I ran a marketing research firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 17 years before I sold it and moved to Colorado to do something more creative and fun.

Where do you do your creative work? 

Most of my work is done in a 1000 square foot studio that I lease near the ski mountain here in Colorado. It doubles as a gallery where I can show and sell my art. When I'm in Utah where we have a second home to go to when the weather is too cold here, I paint in an extra room in that house and have a place I can go to where they allow me to use their pottery equipment and fire my pieces.

How often do you get to do your creative work?

Every day.

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

To some degree, sketching is helpful. But as often happens, the medium, whether paint or clay, does what it wants to do and my sketch goes out the window.

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise you, or inspire you?

I've always loved the Impressionists, particularly Van Gogh and Monet but also love looking at contemporary art in galleries and online.

Can you tell us about some of your successes and challenges? 

With pottery, I have had a lot of success selling online and in galleries and gift shops. The paintings, on the other hand, are slow going in getting noticed and found. But then again, the fine art painting is relatively new for me – maybe a year and half that I've been back at it.

When and why did you decide to start your own business? 

Because the first I started in 1983 was so much fun. I love being my own boss.

What book are you currently reading/or/ do you have any favorite books? 

 Currently, I'm reading 'The Everything Store' aboutJeff Bezos. I finished the memoir by Sonya Sotomayor just recently, too. Biographies of interesting people are inspirational and interesting to me. I also love fiction – Jeffrey Deaver – CJ Box – John Sanford – etc.

What is your most treasured possession? 

Right now, probably the quilts that my mom made for me. She died about a year and half ago.

What are you currently working on or have recently completed? 

Just finished a series of very airy sculptural vases and art objects.

Do you have any other creative pursuits/outlets?

I hike a lot in the mountains, ski when the snow is good, snowshoe, and garden. In fact, for 15 years, I've written a weekly gardening column for the local newspaper. I'm a Colorado Master Gardener having gone through the training when I first moved here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

This week's challenge was...Figure Drawing!

 I was the lucky recipient of a half day Superintendent's Conference Day spent at a local (to my school) Art center called RoCA. There was an instructor and a model and supplies...and it was a challenge for me to feel confidence! It's been years since I did figure drawing...go figure! I think observational drawing is such an important part of the practice of being an artist. I think I will seek out more opportunities to do so.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

This Week's Special Artist Guest Comes To Us From Seattle, Peg Johnson!

I met Peg through an Etsy team I belong to, called ArtTeam.  She is an inspiration to me in so many ways…she's kind and thoughtful, she works tirelessly to help promote our team, makes a ton of artwork and spends lots of time with her family…such a good balance!

Peg's Etsy business is called Every Good Color.  

She also has quite a large presence on other social media…her website is: and you can also find her at:

Peg, tell us a little about what you create:  
I paint modern impressionistic paintings using acrylics on stretched canvas.  My subjects vary but landscapes and seascapes are some of my favorites.  I enjoy whimsical  art and had a lot of fun illustrating a children’s picture book a while back!

Would you like to give us an inside view of your process or technique?   
I like to work from my own photos.  I usually start with a rough sketch on canvas and then grab my paint brush.  As I develop the painting i work in colors and use contrast and brush strokes to help add movement.  I go back in with a small brush as needed to create the details I want. 

Where do you do your creative work?  
I have a small room with large windows, just off our living room.  The light is great for painting.  Music, movies, and our two little dogs keep me company. 

How did you get started?  
I’ve been painting since kindergarten.  My parents have always celebrated creativity. Before I was 10, my grandfather, who was an artist,  taught me how to paint with oils.  I have admired his talent and taken pride in being his granddaughter.  My husband and grown children have played a huge part in helping me get started in marketing my work since I retired from teaching elementary school a few years ago.

How do you define art or creativity?  
Creativity is expressing what you feel in your heart.   It’s playing, using your imagination, laughing, singing, and dancing on paper, with words, paint, movement… the instruments of your choice.

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught? 
I studied Fine Arts at Washington State University with a focus on painting.  I absolutely loved my art classes!  It is so inspiring to paint alongside others!  When I browse art galleries and shops I get that same feeling!

What motivates you?  
I am inspired by colors, shapes, people, places, nature, art, music, my grandkids, animals, everyday moments that warm my heart, catch my eye, make me smile. 

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?  
 Even though I really enjoyed my drawing classes years ago, sketching and drawing do not play a big role in my process. Drawing and sketching are typically black and white.   What I love is telling a story with brush strokes, color and light. 

Is there any particular artworks or artist that surprises you, inspires you or repulses you? 
I’m always surprised by the technical abilities of realistic artists, truly incredible talent and patience.  I am not a fan of dark, depressing art  although I admire the strong statements that can be made.    Impressionist and expressionist art  inspires and delights me, whether it be representational or quite abstract, I am fascinated with the movement, images and effects that can be obtained by layering and juxtaposing color and texture.  

Can you tell us about some of your successes and challenges?  
I feel successful and actually thrilled when I finish a painting.  While I have a plan and big idea about how I want the painting to look… I often have to work through several stages to get the image I want.  This is partly due to the layers of paint I use and the spontaneity and loose quality I love.   Of course, I am elated when I get compliments and make sales!

Who are some of your favorite artists or artwork? 
 Monet, Van Gogh, Morisot,  really all of the Impressionists.  I am also inspired by the art I see on Etsy and other websites.  Sometimes it’s the composition that catches my eye… or it might be a color combination, brush work,  feeling tone, shapes, subject matter, lights and darks, the movement… I am inspired by most art whether I like the style or not, there is often something I can learn.
How did you choose the name for your business?  
I wanted something simple that described my art.  I had a list of 15 or 20 ideas… but this one overshadowed all of the others.  Given my idea list,  my family members also picked it so I knew it was the right choice.

What is your most treasured possession?  
My beautiful little wooden paint box that my parents gave me over 50 years ago.  I was so thrilled to get those paints! 

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?  
I am painting a series of landscapes inspired by the park and lake across the street from my home.  It has a wonderful walking path so there is always a lot of activity. People come from all over the area to enjoy this lake.  

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Special Guest Artist Chelsea Hopkins-Allan

I met Chelsea through an Etsy Team I belong to. 

One of the best things about the internet has been meeting like-minded people from all over the world, and sometimes being able to continue that friendship in "real life".  

Chelsea lives in Albany, Western Australia. Albany is a country town on the coast of the southern-most tip of Western Australia, five hours south of Perth. It's where Australia used to be joined to Antarctica, so it's very windy and very beautiful with a rugged coastline.

If you want to see photographs of the butterfly and moth wing surface, as seen under the microscope, Chelsea has a really great collection of images on her Pinterest board here that she recommends taking a look at! 

Seeing the real thing helps to put the paintings in context  Alternatively, here is a short post on her blog with a few example photographs of the wing scales:

Chelsea's Web Presence:

Business: / (26Seeds on Etsy)
My Website:

Tell us a little about what you create:

I paint modern Australian environmental science and mindfulness inspired watercolour, gouache and mixed-media paintings. One of my main ongoing series 'Butterfly Wing-Scales', look like colourful modern abstracts but are actually giant illustrations of the surface of butterfly and moth wings! Another series called 'Crochet Web Mandalas' are mandalas derived from the beautiful patterns I have long observed and admired in nature such as a spiders web or the internal sections of a seashell, combined with my love of colour. My 'Balancing Stones' series are washy, inky looking watercolour paintings based on stone balancing or cairns. These are just some of my main ongoing series I am working with at the moment.

Where do you do your creative work?

I have a table under a window in the open plan living-dining-kitchen area of our house. This can also expand to the kitchen table and large boards which I lean against the wall for the really big paintings when I need to. But I try not to take over the house with the artwork! I have a trolley with most of my art supplies on it. I have a separate smaller study, with my computer, books and shelving. But this is carpeted so I leave the painting to the living area which is tiled!!! The dogs often sit with me. I also love to sit outside and sketch my ideas in my sketchbook at the outdoor table whilst the boyfriend smokes a cigar!

How did you get started?

Art and creativity was always encouraged by my Mum, Dad and Grandmother (“Mimo”) growing up! When I was 14, I sold two pieces of art in two different exhibitions, one to private collector and one to a gallery. I did art as a subject in high school but with high school exams and then work, university, travel and friends... I completely gave up art not long after my early beginning! The only artistic thing I did from this point forward was drawing diagrams of microscope slides for university!
Then in 2012, when I was 24 years old, I got very very sick over the course of a few weeks. I had to have an MRI one of those days (I guess they suspected a brain tumour). My favourite childhood art shop was over the road from the medical imaging center, my boyfriend took me in there to try to do something to lift my spirits. He bought me a small box of pastels because I liked the colours!
In the MRI machine I was trying to keep positive, Id made a commitment to myself to only focus on the inspiring and uplifting. No point in worrying now, I could only make the most of things! I made a little game for myself to run through all the inspiring and exciting moments in my life in my minds eye. Because lets face it! I felt extremely sick, was deep down a little afraid and was stuck inside a small, sterile and very loud space inside a machine for a good hour or more, getting poked with needles! The first time I saw a butterfly wing under the microscope came to mind and I recalled the incredible awe, excitement and wonder at how magical life is when I saw the vibrant colours and tiny scales on its surface! I held on to this image and the feelings it gave me and that night recreated it as a reminder – with my new pastels (that I thought I would never use), and my watercolour paints! My intention was that every time I looked at this painting it would trigger this memory and help to re-direct my brain to a positive state, consciously or subconsciously. Reinforcing and strengthening these neural pathways for positive focus (like when a path is well trodden through the bush), helping me to feel good mentally/emotionally and in turn this releases good chemicals into the body that help with healing and inflammation! It was my way to help myself both physically and mentally!
At this time I was so unwell I could not walk properly or do anything. I lost my new-ish job as an environmental hydrogeologist due to my health. I was so fatigued and my concentration so impacted so I could not read or get outdoors or do any of the things I would usually choose to do. So when I was able to (not in hospital and able to sit up) I made art or looked at pictures of art or beautiful things. I shared this work, and it started to sell. This has been a long process but two and a half years later I am still painting and slowly recovering!! As I get more energy back I am able to make more art! The rest is history!!!

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught?

I guess in art I am mostly self-taught. I have a Bachelor of Environmental Science. I also studied a program in Science Communication at The University of Western Australia. These studies obviously inform the subject matter of my art because it is based on elements from science and nature, but do not have anything to do with actually creating the artwork.
I did study art in high school, I found this helpful because I got to test out a lot of different mediums over the four or five years which I might not have known to try otherwise. Having confidence in knowing how to use the materials definitely helped me to get started and express my ideas. 

What motivates you?

Being so sick helped motivate me in the beginning. I could not do anything else so there were no distractions!!! I was also painting to create something to have a positive effect on my health and wellbeing.
Now I am sort of addicted to painting so I don't need much to get me motivated!!! I have these ideas in my head of what I truly want to create and I wont be satisfied until I can materialize these ideas. The more I create the more I realize I can improve upon or expand my ideas. So frustration and satisfaction in tandem sort of keep me going, striving to do better and create what I have in my mind. I am also very motivated by people telling me that when they look at my paintings they make them feel incredible joy and wonder, that really makes me feel happy and want to create more and get more work in front of people. I also have more ideas in the future I want to explore and express via art – in relation to autism/aspergers and environmental science – my interest in expressing ideas and the overlap between art and science and communication also motivates me!
As well as all of this, the learning curve is also motivating me. The whole process of creating and sharing artwork and ideas is teaching me skills and concepts and creativity I hope to apply to other areas of my life and future ventures - in art, science, entrepreneurship and communication! 

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

Yes, definitely. I get so many ideas and I need to get them down on paper and out of my head so I can stay focused on the project at hand! Otherwise I would be too easily side tracked and would not finish anything! It also helps me to see how interested I am in an idea. If I am bored after a few sketches, well then there is no point in embarking on a huge painting! Sketching in a notebook is also a good way to explore and test ideas and record inspiration, or just unwind at the end of the day. Sketching is also important for very practical applications such as mapping out patterns on butterfly wings to identify common elements and designs for example. I sketch out a pattern from a photograph to simplify things visually and then work from both the photograph and my sketch!

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise, inspire or repulse you?

I love so many artists. Some of the contemporary Australian Aboriginal artists are awesome! Alesandro Ljubicic ( look him up! He is an Australian artist – I love his art just for the pure joy of it, the colour and texture! Some of the old impressionists really fascinate me. The way many of Monet's paintings look indistinct from up close and then you stand back and this incredibly detailed scene is suddenly apparent! So many artists though I could really start to ramble so Ill leave it at that!

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

It happened by accident. I just listed a few paintings on Etsy to share them (with the encouragement of my boyfriend). I already had an account I’d set up but never used so for convenience I used this! My paintings started to sell so I created and listed some more. Simple as that!!! I've since sold work all around the world now! I've learnt more and more over time and expanded my goals. But I consider myself to just be getting started. Its all been a big learning curve up until now.

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?

I recently completed a really big Butterfly Wing-Scale painting, its around 900mm x 1300mm, larger when framed. It has been cut out and will be floated in a huge frame on a white background, like a massive sample of a butterfly wing under the glass of a microscope slide. It is for 'The Great Southern Art Exhibition' here in Albany. This is the first exhibition I am entering since I started my art almost two years ago so I am excited and a little bit nervous.