Becoming a Real Artist...Virtually
by Cindy Valek Mottl
There are many tools in my colored pencil artist’s bag of tricks. Included are a variety of pencil brands, papers, erasers, brushes for blending, Slice cutters, pencil sharpeners, an Icarus board…the list is endless and grows each year. I will admit, though, that the tool which has been most valuable to my growth as an artist has been social media, particularly the artists’ groups on Facebook.
Rose Makeala, 15" x 22"
Art has always been my passion, but I never saw myself as a real artist. Graduate school in a non-art field, jobs, and children left little time to paint. As I moved past those busy years and again found time for art, I transitioned first to watercolor, and then colored pencil in 2000 because the pencils suited my need for a cleaner medium. They also worked well with my detailed style. Ann Kullberg’s book Colored Pencil Portraits Step By Step was my guide. I stayed safe with my art, not moving out of my comfort zone of portraits done with Prismacolor pencils on Stonehenge paper, never showing my work outside of my family. Talk about a serious lack of confidence! Then Facebook happened. The artists’ groups on Facebook have been an amazing source of support — they are a Virtual Village — allowing me to grow as an artist, taking risks and achieving increasing levels of success. I’ve enjoyed seeing the same growth in other artists.
“I will admit, though, that the tool which has been most valuable to my growth as an artist has been social media, particularly the artists’ groups on Facebook.”
Wisteria and Hydrangea, 15" x 22.5"
At the simplest level, the art groups are a source of product information. Pencil choices are endlessly debated, as are choices of paper. There’s always someone available to tell you what their favorite choices are and why. New products are announced in the groups as they become available and are thoroughly reviewed, sometimes with heated discussions. By studying other artists’ work, it’s possible to determine how various pencils and papers will work in combination with one’s personal style before making a purchase. I found myself moving beyond my Prismacolor/Stonehenge combo to other pencils such as Luminance, Polychromos, Pablo, and the entire Derwent Lightfast range, and adding papers as well. Drafting film was a revelation that I learned about on Facebook. I asked a few questions about types of film and how they worked, placed an order for the sheets, and started creating. I was in love!
“The support of Facebook virtual art friends has, for me, gone far beyond assistance with techniques and products, and the opportunity to learn from other’s work.”
Moving beyond products, my style has matured and grown as a result of my interactions in the social media art groups. I joined while doing just portraits, and I got a lot of positive feedback from the posts of my work. I was getting restless, though, needing to expand my subject matter and refine my techniques. I watched what others did, analyzing strokes, use of color, composition, the pencil/paper combos they used, their subject matter and the results they achieved. It was like visiting a virtual museum of colored pencil artists. What a great tool for learning! Over time, I've told other artists that they are the inspiration for my work. I’ve moved beyond portraits, although I still enjoy doing them, to floral and then to landscapes on drafting film.
Early Spring at Rice Creek, 16" x 22"
The support of Facebook virtual art friends has, for me, gone far beyond assistance with techniques and products, and the opportunity to learn from other’s work. As I stated earlier, I never believed myself to be a real artist and was shy about putting my work out in the world. I never entered competitions. I felt juried shows were out of reach for me. A serious fear of failure and lack of confidence always got the better of me. My virtual village and virtual art friends helped change that. The positive comments I received encouraged me to start entering the competitions for inclusion in juried shows and publications. A few artists in particular became virtual mentors, encouraging me to see myself as a real artist. Successes have followed, and I am so grateful for their support. I look forward to continuing my growth as a real artist.
For all of us participating in art groups on Facebook, there is an additional benefit that goes beyond the art. In a time when a virus has left many feeling isolated and lonely, we have a large, diverse group of virtual friends from around the world that share our artistic interests, help us through our frustrations, encourage us to expand our vision, and then celebrate our successes with us. They let us know that we are real artists!
Cindy Mottl has been working in colored pencil since 2000. Trained in oils and acrylics with a B.A. in Art, she transitioned to watercolor and then colored pencil to bring vibrant light and color to floral, landscapes and portraits. Her work has been featured in Hidden Treasures, The Pencil Box, and was juried into the International Guild of Realism 14th Annual Exhibition (2019) winning Best Floral, as well as IGOR’s Spring Salon (2020) and Fusion Art’s 5th Artist’s Choice Exhibition (2020).
See more at: https://www.cindyvalekmottlart.com/
I have t known Cindy that long but I know in just a short time she is not only an amazing artist but also a wonderful soul. Her art is as beautiful as her being and that’s what I see when I look at her work!Deanna - Jun 15, 2020
Cindy, your work is amazing. I think of myself as a person who likes detail, but your ability to capture detail is both impressive and inspiring! Wow!Elizabeth E Heath - Jun 15, 2020