January 15, 2015

Ironstone Soup - The Power of Improvising

I want to tell you a story while I share the progression of a painting with you. 

The other day I decided to make Beef Barley Soup.  I bought everything I needed, so I thought, but when I went to the freezer for beef, I couldn’t find any.  Somehow, I tend to think that the freezer is a self-replenishing  bottomless pit--1 lb. of beef just has to be in there.  Nope, wasn’t there, so I had to “improvise” with 1 lb. of boneless chicken. Then, I realized I didn’t have quite enough barley, so I added leftover rice.  Instead of beef barley soup, I ended up with something that looked like “stone soup”.   Ever do that?  You are probably saying, “Yes, all the time!”  I think we tend to look at “improvising” with a  “glass half-empty mentality,” but, I believe there  actually is power in improvising.

(Starting a new painting)

I learned at an early age that it’s okay not have everything you think you need.  Growing up in a large family with 6 other siblings--all boys,  my parents often improvised in making meals and making the budget stretch.  In tough times, we relied upon God’s provision where we lacked the ability to improvise.  I can remember sitting at the supper table one evening, with just empty plates in front of us, because my father’s job was on strike.  We trusted the Lord by saying grace and then we heard the doorbell ring.  It was a sweet lady from our church that brought us 2 large bags of corn on the cob from her farm.  She didn’t know we had a need, but God did!  This taught me a powerful lesson that if I had everything I ever wanted, I would seldom see God’s hand of provision.

(I set up a little still life for a reference - had to
improvise on the tureen)

  I knew that I wanted to be an artist at a very early age.  After dabbling in finger paints at age 5,  and moving onto paint-by-number in grade school,  I was ready to try my hand at oil painting by age 15.    When my parents bought me some paints, brushes and canvas board, I felt like I was in heaven!   I was ready to paint and realized I had everything I needed, except one of those fancy easels.  Did that bother me?  Not at all!  By then, I learned that one of the secrets to creativity was found in improvising.  Growing up in a musical family, I got the idea that a music stand would make the perfect easel--and it did.

(I drew up a sketch the way I wanted it to look)

Now, that I’m grown, I own an easel, but hardly ever use it. I prefer to lay my work flat and turn the canvas to suit the angle I’m painting at. I still improvise all the time and I have found that the results of improvising can be very satisfying.  Last year I wanted to buy a unique clock for my husband’s birthday, but because of budget, I had to improvise and create one.  Painting a saw blade for the face of the clock and drawing a clock design for my brother to make from wood, made it so much more special to my husband. You can see the clock here:  http://starlitestudios.blogspot.com/2013/03/farm-paintings-painted-bowls-and-clock.html

(Then painted the background)

(I painted an ironstone tureen on the canvas)

(Added some books)

(Worked on shading, highlighting and lots
of little details)

So, the next time you think of improvising, think of it as “the-glass-half-full” and maybe with faith, even overflowing!  By the way, the “stone soup” did turn out great!  My family even went back for seconds.

(After working and reworking colors and details, 
the painting was finished.)

Title:  Ironstone Soup

Now, it’s your turn.  What are some ways that you had to improvise and it turned out for the better?
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  1. Your artwork is amazing!....I love this soup tureen painting!....and yes, I have on many occasions thought to make something in which I thought I had all of the ingredients and having to improvise on many, many occasions....but then you discover a new recipe by accident!...Again, your artwork is truly gorgeous...Will have to browse the shop soon!..bookmarking!

  2. Thanks, Shirley. I just subscribed to your lovely blog. Love the tole trays on the wall in your home tour. You have a beautiful home! Yes, I agree. The best recipes are discovered by accident!

  3. Oh my gosh Mary! I'm so glad I popped over here to visit with you and got to see your painting. I love it's simplicity! I have been taking some art lessons over the past 2 years and still struggle with shading. As a teacher, I improvised all the time in the classroom. I loved reading your story about God providing for your family when you were young. Take care! ~Jane

  4. I just realized that I misused the word "its." BAD teacher! LOL!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jane. I've made many mistakes in painting and I still try to learn something from each one. Just this last summer, I picked up a unique drawing pencil at a second hand store and thought I'd use it to do my sketch on a canvas. After I finished the painting which took me about 20 hours, I varnish it. Then all the pencil lines bled through like ink. Ouch!!! So I'm still learning. I think the best way to experience art is to forget the rules and just have fun with it. You can always learn as you go.