Abstract Figures

Last week I took a 3-day workshop on abstracting figures. I’ve been wanting to really loosen up in my work and have this idea of just slapping on paint, stepping back, and voila, I’ve created a masterpiece! While I know that’s a pipedream, I’d like to work towards it anyway. So, this workshop was exactly what I needed to push me in the right direction.

Our instructor, Leslie Masters, is a wonderful older lady whose been around forever and styles herself in the most quirky bright-colored clothing; all shades of pinks and oranges! She tough but sweet at the same time and you can tell she really knows her stuff!

The first day we talked about Picasso and Matisse and started with contoured line drawings of faces from magazines. I chose a beautiful Asian model and copied her face onto tracing paper starting with simple line, more detailed line, straight lines, and curved lines. From there, we chose one to paint, using bold blocky strokes focusing on the value and shapes. Below are my classmates works from the first day:

(Side note: most everyone in my class worked in acrylic or watercolor. Acrylic lends itself to these exercises very well – working in oil was much more difficult.)

The following day we began with looking at Pop Art especially Peter Max. I was not familiar with his work and didn’t really care for his style; flat, colorful with black outlines – very cartoony, 70’s psychedelic; think Beatles Yellow Submarine.

Our task for the morning was to work with a partner and transfer an outline of our profile onto a canvas, then create a bubbly landscape in the background that followed the curvy lines from our portrait. I must have missed the memo, because I used straight lines to create my background. I didn’t get too far with the painting and I’ll probably gesso over this one and use the canvas for something else. However, I loved the way some of my classmates turned out. Here is my partially finished design/painting.

In the afternoon we created figure collages based on images from magazines focusing on the large shapes. Next, we painted the figures in an environment – channeling the abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn.

The third and final day was really fun!! We were channeling de Kooning and our task was to create a large, loose, messy, abstract figure painting using house paints and large brushes. I chose to paint from a favorite picture of my young son when he was about 4 years old. Below is the original picture and my abstract interpretation: my pièce de résistance!

In the afternoon, we each took turns showcasing our works from the three days and gave a brief synopsis of what we learned, what we liked / didn’t. It was a great foray into abstraction; I learned several ways to approach the subject without feeling overwhelmed, great techniques to get started, and about several abstract artists. Now, I can take what I learned and hopefully approach my paintings a bit looser. We’ll see, stay tuned!

Eli Tea Bar

Artist of the Month

Tea can take you anywhere. The Himalayas. The Hawaiian Islands. The Horn of Africa. And right back home. Every cup is a journey. Every sip, a step forward. And wherever you end up, it all starts in Detroit.

What better place to celebrate the land, people and culture of tea than a city known for creativity and community? What better place from which to visit foreign lands than the land of opportunity, itself? Right now, it’s not just Detroit’s time. It’s Detroit’s Tea Time. The only question is, where do you want to go?

– Eli, CEO / Tea Master of Eli Tea

I am happy to announce that I have been chosen as the Featured Artist of the Month at  Eli Tea Bar in downtown Birmingham, Michigan. Each month a local artist is chosen to showcase their work on the large 9′ x 13′ wall just inside the contemporary cozy atmosphere.

The Tea Bar was established by Eli in 2013. Over 50 types of tea and herbal infusions are offered and each cup of tea is brewed from loose leaf to order. They also sell loose tea in bulk and all of their teas are free of artificial ingredients and flavors.

About two months ago, I serendipitously stumbled upon their website and noticed a call for local artists. I filled out the contact info with a link to my website. When I received the email congratulating me as the featured artist for June, I was shocked and excited: I had completely forgotten about it!

For the next few weeks I prepared for the show. I had to talk my son and Mom into letting me “borrow” their beloved paintings for the month with the promise that they would not be sold! However, my son let me know that he would not be completely opposed to selling if I was offered a nice price and split it with him. Always the little business man!

It turned into a family affair: my husband helped me arrange and hang my paintings while the boys entertained themselves; one sitting outside, always on the lookout for exotic, high-end vehicles, and the other performing card tricks for the tea patrons. (He even made $10 that evening!)

Later this month we’ll have a meet and greet and if I’m really lucky maybe I’ll even sell a painting or two! Thank you Eli!

Hey there, Dahlia

A few months ago, my friend posted a beautiful picture of a Dahlia flower on Facebook. To date, I hadn’t painted a close-up lone flower – the fear of all that detail – but I have seen many artists accomplish the task beautifully and I felt up for the challenge. What could be more perfect for Spring?

The Dahlia originated from Mexico and was discovered in the 16th Century by Spanish adventurers. There are over 20 known species resulting in thousands of hybrids. The Dahlia is unique because it has six genes rather than the standard two found in most flowers; therefore it can take on a myriad of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Card Art

Art is all around us. All you have to do is LOOK…

For the past year, my younger son has been heavily into magic and cardistry. Cardistry differs from card magic as defined below:

“While card magic focuses on manipulation of playing cards for purposes of illusion, cardistry is the non-magical manipulation of playing cards with intent to display creativity, performance art, and skill.”
Bicycle Cards

I never knew there was an entire subculture of cards and cardists, but it really is quite impressive. If you Google Card Art or Cardistry you’ll find virtually thousands of articles, YouTube videos and links to specialty stores that sell decks made especially for the purpose.

Another subset of this incredible genre is the collectible luxury decks. One such special item is the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Deck by Dan & Dave produced in collaboration with the award-winning design firm Stranger & Stranger. Each card features a unique work of art ranging from classical to the macabre. My son received this beautiful deck for Christmas and it’s a favorite of mine as well.

playing-cards-ultimate-deck
Portion of Ultimate Deck (Courtesy of Dan & Dave Website)

As an artist, I thought it would be fun to create a unique playing card for Ethan. I took some pictures of him with the cards and decided to replicate the image of him doing an S-Fan with the Ultimate Deck. He wanted to be the “Joker” (which is quite fitting if you know my son). I traced the outline of an actual playing card and then drew the image with pencil. Using Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens and my Prismacolor Premier Fine Line Markers I used a combination of stippling and line art to complete the drawing.

21/2" x 31/2" Marker and Ink on Bristol Board adapted from Personal Photograph
21/2″ x 31/2″ Marker and Ink on Bristol Board adapted from Personal Photograph

Continuous Line Drawing

A few weeks ago I was paging through the enormous Winter catalog of our local high-end, up-scale mall: Somerset Collection. This “tome” is basically a super-charged glossy Vanity Fair magazine on steroids, with ads from Versace, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, Gucci, etc. You get the picture; it’s our little slice of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive or Paris’ Champs-Elysees right here in the Mid-West.

As I was drooling over the beautiful clothes and accessories, gagging over others, and laughing at the teeny-tiny corner descriptions that state the specifics like amount$$$, I came across a really cool ad. I have no idea what it was for, there was no teeny-tiny description in the corner just a .com address which I accidentally tore through.

It was simply a continuous line drawing done in black against a solid white background and it really struck me: here was this elegant advertisement that stood out like a beacon of simplicity against all the extravagance and opulence and it was beautiful.

This beautiful ad became my muse for the evening and I set out to explore continuous line drawing for myself. I’d been wanting a good excuse to use my new set of Prismacolor® Premier Fine Line Markers I purchased a while back but hadn’t yet broken the seal. Against the 6″x6″ Strathmore® Bristol Artist Tiles, they flew with ease; it was a perfect marriage.

This was fun! Next I experimented with Black India Ink® on Strathmore® 6″x6″ Watercolor Artist Tiles. I used a technique I had learned in my Figure Class. You use 3 – 4 gradations of ink and water to show the different values. Using a silly selfie from a girls weekend (that’s one post that will never see the light of day:)). I started laying in the values while practicing my portrait skills. It was a quick fun piece. The nose is completely messed up but I like it!

Girls Weekend Selfie
6″x 6″ Black India Ink on Strathmore Watercolor Artist Tile

It was a fun creative night inspired by a simple line drawing in an outrageous, overpriced, opulent catalog. Usually I just toss it in the recycle bin, but for some reason I hung on to this one — funny how things work out sometimes.

Year in Review and Other Random Thoughts

Welcome to 2017 dear followers! This typing thing is a bit difficult since my operation – think back to when you actually learned how to type in middle school and your fingers and wrist muscles were sore for the first few weeks because they hadn’t been used before in that way.

I can still picture my typing teacher and hear her to this day. She was short and stout with a bit of a lisp; “a, s, d, f, j, k, l, sem, return; a, s, d, f, j, k, l, sem, return, and again…”

I’m experiencing that same muscle fatigue with my left hand and a bit of a pull on that darn right ulnar nerve, so posts may be brief for a while.


2016 has come and gone. It’s been a light one in terms of works produced but I have accomplished other important goals to further my passion, so it’s not completely a wash. How do you measure a “good” year for an aspiring artist? Is it the number of works produced?; the number of classes taken?; the amount of money made?; the growth and betterment of your craft?

I guess it depends how you define success. Since everybody’s goals are different, I guess it’s an individual litmus test. I try to teach my boys not to compare themselves to others, only to themselves in terms of growth and happiness. We all compare ourselves to others at times, but it can be damaging for the psyche – as I have learned over the years. If you see growth in yourself, whatever your goals or visions are, then it’s a good year!

I did accomplish many of my artistic goals this year with the creation of this website and my business cards, the establishment of a social media presence as JenLynnArt, and the attainment of two paid commissions. I also attended classes and workshops to gain experience in live portrait painting and began adding the format into my painting repertoire.


The images below represent my finished pieces from 2016. Select an image to view the carousel.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
May 2017 treat you well:)