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I recently started taking yoga classes again.  One mindset that is encouraged is to be in the present moment and listen to what your body feels like or what it can or can't do just now.

Extended version of Sea Daydream done for an Infected by Art challenge.
Extended version of Sea Daydream done for an Infected by Art challenge.

Lately I'm finding this translates over to juggling art, business, and life in general. A new opportunity appeared that I felt I couldn't pass up which means other things that I wanted to do this month need to be shifted. Instead of whipping myself mentally to go faster or do more, this time around I'm trying to be more present with what I'm doing in the moment and then choosing what I feel is most important with the spaces of time around the main project. I say trying, not doing, because it's definitely something that will take practice.

Beating myself up over not getting x or y completed doesn't do me any good. Even a little time spent on the other projects I wanted to have done this month is still moving them forward.

Happy first day of Fall

Bear Falls is my second attempt at this concept. I'll show some of the process I used to create it.

First Attempt

watercolor painting of bear headed waterfall the first attempt
The first attempt at Bear Falls. Watercolor.

Some of you may remember the first attempt. At the time I thought it was pretty good. It mostly met my goals for the idea with the skill set I had available in 2002. Mostly but not quite.

Second Attempt

oil painting of bear head waterfalls by christine mitzuk 16 by 20
Bear Falls

The more I learned, the more I wanted to revisit the idea. Through many thumbnail sketches I eventually realized I still wanted to make the landscape the star, but I really wanted to people the world. I borrowed the idea from early landscape painters of using a teeny figure to play up the power of the land. Thanks to some peer feedback, the figure got even smaller (which helped). This time around, I also played more with distance and depth.

I also used more of my senses. What would it feel like to be that tiny figure at the head of the falls? Rushing wind. Roaring water. The wind whipping my hair and skirt. Spray from the falls hitting my skin. The call of the birds barely audible over the falls.

This newer version has much more of the feeling I was aiming for.

Maquette Building

A maquette was very helpful. I needed something to look at to figure out the lighting. Plus building it with my hands seemed to help in thinking about the space.

Step 1


I made a cardboard form for the overall falls shape. Then I sculpted the bear heads. I made my own modeling clay. There a many recipes online. It worked pretty well, but gravity distorted some of the heads. It did give me some interesting texture because of the salt. Next time I'll probably use Sculpey or similar.

When the bears were dry I baked the whole thing in the oven at the lowest temperature possible. Kids don't try this at home.


christinemitzuk_bearfalls_maquette2Step 2

To give the falls and land some volume, I built up the forms with paper mâché.




christinemitzuk_bearfalls_maquette3 Step 3

To create whitecaps and add dimension to the water, I used a palette knife and applied some Acrylic Modeling Paste & Acrylic Extender. I painted everything  with acrylic paint. Then to give the painted water surface a more reflective quality, I coated it with some Acrylic Gloss Gel. After the paint dried I added the little castle shapes (see the image with step 4).



acrylic paint over paper mache cardboard and home made modeling clay
The painted maquette. No caulk has been added yet.
Acrylic Gloss Gel applied to the water surface which was first painted with acrylic paint.


Step 4

final maquette for bear falls painting by christine mitzuk
The final maquette.

To give me a better idea of falling water shapes, I  built up layers of caulk. I used DAP Clear and DAP Crystal Clear. To give it a frothy look and make it look a little more like sheets of water in some areas I moved the caulk around with a toothpick. For several days the maquette had to sit out in the porch with the windows open because the caulk was quite smelly.

When the caulk was dry I added a little white paint to some of the frothy water areas.

Including a maquette in the process of creating the painting did add extra hours but I think it was worth it. I definitely got shadow and form information from it that I could not have made up well.

I've learned a lot since that first attempt thanks to The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art, Rebecca Guay's IlIllustration Master Class, SmArtSchool, and my peers. I'm grateful for these opportunities and am excited to see what else I'll learn. Art on!

This is my work from the previous portrait class I taught at The Atelier in Minneapolis. We lucked out again and our model was wonderful.

I was doing the color boards at the time so some of that filtered its way into the portrait. I tried out a lot of the cooler color mixtures, especially trying to use Raw Umber and Ivory Black in more subtle ways.

Thanks again Larissa!

oil paiting portrait study done at the atelier studio program of fine art by christine mitzuk
Oil paint portrait study, very close but not quite finished.

Here's my little home away from home for the next 4 days. Table 31 in the Art Show. I have an experiment this year. I'm holding a drawing for a giveaway!

Gen Con 2014

One lucky person will get to choose either a print on premium matte paper from the selection I have at Gen Con, in stock,
OR 20% off your next art purchase from me.

  • The 20% applies only to prints, originals, or **personal art commissions. Excludes commercial work (commissions for promotion, games, cover art, or similar).
  • Winner will be chosen 2pm (Eastern), Saturday, August 16, 2014 at GenCon.
  • One entry per person.
  • You need not be present when I pull a name but you must be at Gen Con to enter. Winner must be able to pick up their print by this coming Sunday, August 17, 2014 by the close of the Art Show which is 4pm Eastern.
  • The winner must have a legible entry.
  • Winner will be contacted a.s.a.p.
  • Final price for the 20% off will include shipping and sales tax (if in Minnesota).

** I reserve the right to refuse personal commissions that are too far outside my range (ie. extremely gruesome or obscene).

time pieces illustrating 10,000 hours
10,000 hours

Once upon a time a friend and I had a discussion about talent and mastery. She brought up that old 10,000 hours saying. You know the one: It takes 10,000 hours to master something. Then she pointed out that 10,000 hours = 40 hours per week for 5 years. 365 days in a year, 50 work weeks (actually about 52 weeks but let's take 2 weeks off for holidays/vacation/sick time), 5 days a week, 8 hours a day multiplied by 5 years.

Five years of consistent, focused practice.

Duh. I hadn't ever thought to do the math. I just assumed it was a figure of speech to drive home the point of "yes you need to work at something A LOT if you want to master it".

I think this explains the answers I received from so many professional artists when I asked about what they did after school. They all seem to have felt like around year 5 they came into their own. They all phrased it differently but basically they finally felt like they were painting confidently and consistently (well, more often than not) in their own voice.

I don't look at this as an obstacle. I actually find it kind of comforting that many (maybe all??) artists go through a similar experience. Yeah there might be some wobbly steps and stumbling,  or feeling like I'm flailing about till I get traction by gaining understanding. I think that's all par for the course. The flailing and stumbling isn't fun but hey, that means I'm learning something. And learning something makes it a good day.