Let it Simmer
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Would you believe that the painting above was made two years after the journal page below?

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The journal page emerged from three different painting play sessions sometime in 2017… I was probably testing new watercolors and made the wash background, then I remember having leftover black gesso and cleaning off my scraper with all the excess on here. Then some other time I was painting with blue and a palette knife, again had some left on the palette when I’d finished and used it up by scraping along on the black background. The layers in a “use it up” journal like this emerge really serendipitously - when I have something else to use up, I flip through the journal looking for either a blank page or an existing background I could build on. Maybe I’m cleaning off a stencil and so have an opportunity to add pattern and texture somewhere. It’s partly a way to avoid cleaning brushes or stencils and washing beautiful rich paint down the sink, and partly a way to add more layers and texture in a super low stakes approach over time.

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When I was ready to make a larger canvas out of it, I tried the same blue background with black gesso baseline to form a horizon. The black palette knife shapes quickly suggested building forms to me so I leaned in to the city vibe and started thinking about window lights in skyscrapers at night…

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It took several layers back and forth of blue, gold, and black - funnily enough one of the challenges sometimes with abstract art is that I don’t want it to look too directly representational. So I played around with sparkling lights coming from places in the sky as well as the buildings, and added some blue over the buildings too to tie things all together.

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And two years later, here we are - “City Nights, City Lights” was finally complete, after a long long stretch on the back burner. In fact, it became the first painting to sell at my Open Studios event back in April!

I wanted to share the process story behind this piece because I think there is often a perception that “inspiration strikes” and artists come up with ideas instantaneously - and therefore the belief that if you don’t have ideas on the spot, you are “not creative” or “not an artistic person”. But here is an idea that began as leftovers, layered together by accident, and then simmered on a back burner for over two years.

Give yourself time, and grace, and back burner space. Let the ideas percolate without pressure to produce. I’d love to hear what you’re simmering on even if it’s just in a tiny germ of an idea stage! Share a note or a pic in the comments below.

wishing you more joy & less stress,

Julianna

Help Me Name This Painting
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what do you see when you look at this painting?

what do you feel when you look at this painting? 

what do you wonder when you look at this painting? 

 

 

during open studios I set up one of my almost-complete paintings on an easel and asked visitors a variation of the questions above:

”what would you call this painting?” 

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here’s what people said: 

  • Torrents of Joy

  • Hot Pink Smile

  • Pink Wavy Waters

  • Lifeboats

  • The Tempest

  • E

  • Reflections of City Noise

  • The Secret Lava Layer

  • “Treasures” at the Bottom of the Sea

  • Surviving the Storm

  • Sea Disco

  • Flourescent Fish

  • Stormy Skies at Sunset

  • Ocean Motion

  • Alphabet Volcano Dance

  • Energetic Blueness

  • Waterlava

  • Babe the Blue Ox goes in for a Lick

  • Stormy Seas

  • Bleeding Hearts

  • Wild Nights

 

What name would you pick?

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1. what do you feel when you look at this painting?

2. what do you wonder when you look at this painting?

3. what do you see when you look at this painting?

 

How does your name idea change depending on which question you ask yourself?  

 

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments! 

Open Studios - My First Live Event
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Last weekend was my first in-person art event, the Lexington Open Studios. Before this I’ve mostly just been sharing my work online, through Etsy, Instagram, and this website. It was a surprisingly emotional step to share my work live, in person, with family and friends who know me in other capacities instead of just folks on Instagram who only know me through Anti-Anxiety Art. 

I was lucky to get a great space at the Munroe Art Center, an awesome art & music space in Lexington. (My home studio is in a little room off our master bedroom and it felt weird to have folks walking through our bedroom to come see it, so I opted for a community space instead).

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I wanted to replicate my studio in the new space, to give visitors a sense of my process - at least as much as reasonably possible in a big public hallway. So I brought my paint cart & a stack of paintings that had   some background layers already started but were far from complete. I set up a small easel on the table, and would work on paintings whenever I had a few minutes throughout the day. As you can see from the works in progress under the table, I actually painted quite a lot during the event! It was great for my nerves to have something to do with my hands, and sparked fun conversations with visitors as they watched.

Another way I shared a window into my process was by bringing several of my completed art journals, and encouraging folks to flip through them. I had some great chats bouncing around some ideas for art journaling / creativity workshops that I’ve had percolating... I hope to bring those to fruition later this year! Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried art journaling or are curious to learn more about it. 

Another way I shared a window into my process was by bringing several of my completed art journals, and encouraging folks to flip through them. I had some great chats bouncing around some ideas for art journaling / creativity workshops that I’ve had percolating... I hope to bring those to fruition later this year! Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried art journaling or are curious to learn more about it. 

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One big lesson I learned, though - it was a surprisingly physically intense experience! Standing all day is tougher than you’d think (although teacher experience paid off here). The real doozy was set up and take down... Next year I’ll definitely want a helper - bonus points for someone who can reach the gallery track without needing a big ladder! Any volunteers?? 

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All in all, it was a great weekend. I met some new art-making and art-appreciating friends, sold five paintings (!!!!!), and shared my art with friends from all parts of my life. Hope to see you there again next year!

What I’m working on
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I’ve spent the month of April deep in preparation mode for my first big in-person event, the Lexington Open Studios tour. While I do have a small home studio in a room above our garage, you have to walk through our master bedroom to get to it, and that just seemed a little too awkward for visitors. So instead of participating in my literal studio, I’m joining a group of 20 artists all showing together at the Munroe Center for the Arts.

(Sneak peek at one of my favorite new pieces) 

(Sneak peek at one of my favorite new pieces) 

I’ll have an easel and paint cart set up and be working on some pieces live. So if you live in the Boston area, I hope you’ll stop by! It’s Saturday and Sunday April 27 & 28, 11am-5pm each day. And if you visit the other home studios throughout town you can enter a drawing to win a $250 gift card good for work from *any* participating artist (the more studios you visit he more entries you get!).

a work in progress I hope to finish up at the studio show this weekend 

a work in progress I hope to finish up at the studio show this weekend 

if you’re not local or can’t make it next weekend, sign up for my newsletter below to get updates on  when these works in progress are finished and available - I’ll be sending updates out after the show to my Joyful Ones first before posting anything up to Etsy or Instagram. 

Experimenting with watercolors + acrylics together.  

Experimenting with watercolors + acrylics together.  

Excited to see you what comes next and hope to see you soon, physically or virtually!

From Painting to Embroidery: Translating Between Media
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Lately I’ve started noticing more and more embroidery artists on Instagram. I love the colorful modern hoop art from folks like @hopebroidery, @merristiches, and @sewbootiful. At first I was just an admirer, and didn’t think I would ever try embroidery myself - “I need a new hobby like I need a hole in my head”, I thought. But reading a “beginners guide to embroidery” by Hope helped me rethink my original assumption that I’d need to buy a bunch of new supplies to get started. I realized I already had some needles that would work, and I took her advice to use an old pillowcase for the fabric! I had some leftover embroidery floss my grandmother had sent me for use in scrapbooking projects (mega flashback!), so then all I needed was a hoop. One trip to Michaels and $2.50 later, I was ready to go.

The reason I finally “gave in” and tried embroidery myself instead of just appreciating the beautiful work of others is because I had An Idea. An Idea I just could not get out of my head: I wanted to take one of my geometric abstract paintings and make it in embroidered form. I figured I could use black thread for the dividing lines, and then just fill in the different boxes with different stitches in an assortment of colors.

After weeks of daydreaming about it, I finally picked a few colors and dove in. Here’s how it went: 

embroidering the geometric outline in black

embroidering the geometric outline in black

Maybe in the future I’d want to sketch straight lines with a disappearing ink pen and a ruler, but for a first attempt it was so much easier to just have a go at it - wonky lines and all. In this case the embroidered process matches the painting process quite closely; I make the black lines first then go back and fill in boxes working with one color at a time.

I do all the blocks of a single color at once when painting so that I don’t have to keep cleaning my brush switching back and forth all the time. And I did all the blocks of a single color with embroidery so that I didn’t have to tie off and rethread the needle. So really, the theme is I am lazy and hate extra steps, and hate feeling like I might be wasting paint or thread. So many more parallels than I anticipated!!

adding sprinkles of ccolor around the margins

adding sprinkles of ccolor around the margins

I tried different stitches for each color, and specifically didn’t let myself watch too many tutorials or classes because I thought it would be a rabbit hole of “thinking” vs “doing”. So the inner boxes are just things I made up. I tried a few times to fill in only part of a box as a way to mimic the shading / dilution of color that happens in the watercolor version.

the finished piece!

the finished piece!

I did watch some tutorials after I finished the inner section, just to get some ideas for more projects. Im obsessed with are Becca Rindquist from dropcloth studios and highly recommend her courses on Creativebug if you are looking for beginner video tutorials. That’s where I learned French knots, asterisk stitches, and scattered seed stitch; which I think used to fill in most of the whitespace around the central geometric piece. I love love love how it turned out! I might go for a slightly more minimal border sprinkle next time but since this was acting as a kind of starter sampler for me it was fun to try a combination of stitches. 

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I have another Idea poking at my brain already... so now I can’t wait to get my hands on some variegated thread and see what magic those create!


Do you have more than one hobby or creative passion? Is there a medium you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t taken the plunge yet? Try picking a project you have done and loved, and experiment with recreating it or translating portions of it into a new attform. I’d love to see what you create! you can post a link here or tag me on Instagram @antianxietyart or using the hashtag #antianxietyart

Wishing you more joy & less stress,

Julianna

ps if you have any other favorite embroidery artists, please share a link to their work; I’d love to expand my repertoire of inspiration! 

Julianna StocktonComment
Simple, Stress-Relieving Art in 5 Minutes or Less

Here are 5 examples of art journaling pages you can do in 5-minute increments, when you want to do *something* creative but don't have enough time, energy, or mental focus for a more-involved project. I find 5-minute art escapes akin to mindfulness meditation - sure it's great if you can take a multi-day retreat to just immerse yourself in meditation (/art) nonstop, but it's also extremely beneficial to center yourself periodically throughout the day. And those 5-minute boosts help me stay happy, centered, and energized, even if they don't involve time to process anything deeply or get into a real flow with the art. Sometimes I’m working out an idea I have in my head that is on its way to a future painting, but I mostly try to separate my “warm up” creative minutes from any requirement of “usefulness later on” - they’re already useful just in themsleves, for helping get creative juices warmed up and providing a brief oasis of calm and joy.

1. Just use pens - doodling with marker is so much easier & less messy than pulling out paints, watercolors, or even paper + glue. Maybe you later cover it with more layers or collage on top, but maybe it's just some relaxing color + pattern play - and THAT'S OK. In these examples I was playing with the brush & fine point tips of some Tombow dual-brush markers to experiment with different line weights and patterns.

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2. Scrape leftover paint - I like to use old hotel key cards, or a plastic palette knife. These pages emerged from less than 2 minutes effort, just using up extra paint from a canvas I was working on. Black gesso makes a particularly dramatic scraped background effect.

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3. When in doubt, make color swatches of your supplies - soothing, simple shapes + calming brushstrokes + the satisfaction of seeing allll the colors in one place (+ bonus organization benefit of having a reference of what colors you already own, so that you maybe don't buy a fifth set of shimmery watercolors... just saying....)

Swatches of my Jane Davenport  mermaid markers

Swatches of my Jane Davenport mermaid markers

so many yummy colors of Winsor & Newton  gouache

so many yummy colors of Winsor & Newton gouache

4. Make new backgrounds every time you need to "clean your brush" - partly this habit developed because I hated to waste paint when I was done making a swatch (see project 3). I let these dry and may return later and add a hand-lettered quote on top, but mostly I just like to look at all the pretty colors together :) 

background from cleaning off waterbrush intPrima  watercolor confections

background from cleaning off waterbrush intPrima watercolor confections

From the same Winsor & Newton  gouache  swatch project above; when I learned a liiiiiitle gouache on a brush goes a loooon way. :)

From the same Winsor & Newton gouache swatch project above; when I learned a liiiiiitle gouache on a brush goes a loooon way. :)

5. Add marks on top - go back to one of your (now dry) backgrounds from a previous 5-minute burst and add some marks on top. Simple circles or + signs are my go-to marks right now, but you will find your own preferred most-soothing/least-thinking mark to make (pattern play like #1 can help reveal this!). My favorite supplies for making marks on top of dried paint are Jane Davenport's paint over pens or sharpies. If what I'm adding includes journaling, I usually go for my trusty fudeball black pen, that seems to write smoothly on basically any surface I can come up with.

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My favorite times to sneak a few minutes are first thing in the morning (sets me up well with a boost of creative energy for the day) or any time I'm about to lose my temper with the kids because I'm feeling way too frazzled (ducking away for a few minutes helps diffuse the tension and refills my well to prepare me to go back and handle the toddler tantrums with more poise and balance).

What can you make in 5 minutes? Remember, it doesn't have to be a complete page or project - just take a little "time out" to do something creative for yourself with a few moments out of your day. If 5 minutes seems too long, try 1 minute! 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I only link to products I use and love, that I bought myself and have not been paid to promote. 

Recovering from perfectionism

Hi there. Thanks for stopping by! This blog is a place for me to explain some of the process and meaning behind my paintings, and share some artistic experiments that haven’t made their way onto canvases yet. Here you’ll find the story of my ongoing journey in self-care & self-expression, as I work to manage my anxiety and bring more joy into the world through art.

What Serves You, 12x12 acrylic on canvas - 2019

What Serves You, 12x12 acrylic on canvas - 2019

While I’ve always loved art & color (my favorite color: ALL the colors. organized in rainbow order. obviously) and making things with my hands, for a long time I let my frustration and perfectionism get in the way of producing any creative work. I could never get the painting / drawing / collage / project to look like the vision I had in my head. I would give up part way through a new project because it was harder to execute than I’d envisioned. Ironically, while making things with my hands (especially colorful happy things) has always helped lift my depression and reduce my anxiety, I regularly let anxiety & perfectionism keep me from making anything because I find it too overwhelming or exhausting to get started.

 

Enter art journaling. Largely inspired by Dina Wakley’s book Art Journal Freedom, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s online courses at Balzer Designs, I started art journaling in 2015….

  • Art that lived in a book, not on a wall or an easel? … 

  • A way to express emotions and process feelings with colors and images alongside words? … 

  • A book with so many pages that the “stakes” for any one page were so low I could just paint swatches of new paints or experiment with techniques? … 

… SOLD.

 

And page by page, mark by mark, I began to shed the perfectionism and anxiety that had held me back from fully embracing creative expression. No joke, one of my earliest art journal pages was “You don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful”. 

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I eventually grew brave enough to venture out of the “safe” confines of a book I could close up and keep secret, to expressing myself on big, bright, colorful canvases through abstract acrylic painting: 

The Blues, 24x36 acrylic on canvas, 2018

The Blues, 24x36 acrylic on canvas, 2018

I’ve been learning more and more to let go of expectations and end results and enjoy the process along the way. I find myself appreciating the beauty in tiny marks, tiny moments – the potential for these pieces to contribute to the overall whole, without any one needing to be “just right” or “finish things off” perfectly. Sometimes I like an inky background so much I just stop there!

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On this site you can find a portfolio of my abstract paintings, buy current works for sale, and learn more about the meaning behind individual paintings and about my creative process overall. I hope to use this blog in particular to share some of my sketchbook explorations in abstract, intuitive, expressive art across a wide range of mediums: paper, paint, ink, collage, you name it…  Often these early experiments percolate for months and become the inspiration for large-scale canvas paintings later on - - or can be the basis for commissioned paintings if you see something that peaks your interest!

As I experiment with new materials and techniques I’m learning that a “creativity growth mindset” really can be developed with effort and openness. Along the way I’ve experienced a profound shift from self-doubt to self-care to self-healing. And this is only the beginning! So maybe along the way I can help some other perfectionists out there let go, loosen up, and enjoy this creative life.