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