by Oksana Burr
When I think of art, I think of a desire to feel free, be creative and be expressive. Art brings me a lot of joy when I let myself be fully immersed in my creative process. Growing up in Russia, I studied a lot of art by taking art classes, practicing live figure sketches, copying masterworks and experimenting with different mediums.
"Thoughtful gaze" - graphite pencils completed in 1997 at the age of 17 years old as one of my early figure drawings.
Art heals me in so many ways, especially when I feel stressed or anxious. This is why I have created a “healing routine” consisting of three essential “P’s” which stand for “Preparation,” “Production” and “Post-evaluation.” A good analogy to my process is a film making term, “Lights, Camera, Action.” Each element is essential to one another, otherwise the process will be “broken.”
“Art heals me in so many ways, especially when I feel stressed or anxious.”
I like to start my preparation with visualization, positive thoughts and clear intention to be fully committed to my process. Keep the following in mind during preparation:
Image editing - I have my computer, phone and notebook nearby so I can record ideas and observations. I begin with several images of the subject. If it is a commission, I ask the client for several photo references so I can know the subject better. Using a high-quality image is crucial if I am to include many details. When I connect with a photograph, desire can justify using a poor-quality photo. A client may request artwork of a dear pet they lost and I cannot use another image. In any case, I edit images in Photoshop. Some free editing programs and phone apps that perform basic adjustments are Krita, GIMP, Snapseed and PIXLR. Once I’ve edited a photo, I print it out so I have a paper reference for when I draw.
Making color swatches - Artist apps and Photoshop help me make digital color swatches. You can manually match your color swatches with colors in the reference photo. I use Photoshop’s color picker to select colors but also use a phone app, “Color Picker for Artists,” which provides names of the colored pencils.
Testing color swatches - After choosing a drawing surface, test your pencils on a scrap piece of the same surface, matching the colors to the digital colors you pulled.
Preparing materials - This is the final stage when gathering erasers, sharpeners, pencils, paper towels, a dust brush and other drawing tools. Keep them nearby to reduce distractions.
Creating a line drawing - Whether you freehand or create a line drawing, transfer the subject to paper before starting the next step, production.
"Self-portrait" - colored pencils. Pink magnolia signifies my love for flowers.
This is the stage where you act on intentions. For me, it is the most fun stage because I enter my creative zone and enjoy every moment. Here are tips to make your experience more pleasant during production:
Setting the mood - My creative process feels rich and soothing when I set a good mood and atmosphere. I put on some favorite music, podcast or TV show. I enhance my mood with a favorite beverage and scented candle and wear comfy clothes to keep my body relaxed and at ease.
Setting a timer - Drawing takes a toll on your body so I allow myself to take short breaks. This gives me time to breathe and do a few body and hand movements.
Enjoy the process - Have you heard the expression, “trust the process?” Sometimes I forget my goal and am hard on myself, which turns into more stress while I’m trying to avoid stress! I turn mind games off and trust what I’m creating and discovering. This is the time to experiment with new ideas or techniques. Your mind may dive into a powerful “do not disturb me” zone. If I had tension or stress, the creative process heals any gaps and rewards my body and soul.
“My creative process feels rich and soothing when I set a good mood and atmosphere. I put on some favorite music, podcast or TV show.”
"Purple Iris" - mixed media using panpastels, colored and pastel pencils. Discovered this beautiful iris in my own garden.
I find this stage almost like saying goodbye to what I felt attached to during a long journey.
In the post-evaluation stage, be mindful of the following:
After you have finished drawing, step away for a few hours or overnight. You’ll return with fresh eyes and be less critical in the self-evaluation process.
Work on final adjustments such as details, corrections and tweaking.
Turn your drawing upside-down or view it in a mirror to compare it to the reference.
Check the darks and lights. Do you need to deepen the shadows? Take a picture of your drawing, convert it to black and white and check the tones and values.
Write about your journey of this project from start to finish or about how meaningful it is to you.
Create a record - Keeping an art log is important; you can check when you made a drawing, what you used, etc.
Share it - If it is not commissioned, sharing on social media is a good way to share your creations with others and help others who may want to learn your techniques. Be proud of your work.
I hope that sharing these tools gives you a better idea of how enjoyable and healing your art process can be. Connecting with other artists is a healing process of its own. May art inspire you and bring you tremendous joy!
ABOUT Oksana Burr:
Born and raised in Russia, Oksana Burr is an award-winning artist specializing in creating a wide range of photorealistic artwork using colored pencils, pastels and watercolors. She is a member of CPSA, SAA and UKCPS. Oksana has taught art instruction in her local area and continues to grow professionally and inspire others.
See more at: https://www.oksanaburr.com