Recharge Your Creativity by Doing Nothing: Creativity Hack #5

Recharge Your Creativity by Doing Nothing: Creativity Hack #5

Have you ever had the feeling that your creative well has just completely been drained dry? Like there’s nothing left.

In today’s culture, we tend to be so busy. We drive ourselves so hard. Go, go, go, go, go. There’s a feeling that you’re not being productive if you’re not doing something. If there’s no product at the end of the activity or the process, then it’s not worth doing.

But the very opposite is really where truth lies.

One of the fastest ways that you could recharge that creative well and reenergize yourself is by doing absolutely nothing, taking time, blocking time out to give yourself the time to just be.

I’m gonna go over five things to help you get to that stage of doing nothingness.

The first is to remember that you need to be, not do. That’s not nearly as easy as it sounds like for most of us.

One of the first things you want to do is to become still. Be still. In the process of being still, you’re being.

And you’re letting go.

And in letting go you’re relaxing and in relaxing, especially in silence, you’re able to begin to hear the thoughts that are going on in your head.

That’s actually the reason most of us become so busy and stay so busy. So we don’t have to listen to ourselves in our EDS, but those thoughts need to come out.

Those thoughts are the things that are blocking your creativity and until you’re silent and until you’re just sitting, you’re not even going to be aware they’re there.

So awareness is that first step towards silencing those thoughts and beliefs that can get in your way. So be, not do. Relax and let go in silence so that you can listen to yourself.

Number two is do that outside and unplugged because if you go outside, and you’re unplugged, you’re not going to be bothered by notifications your phone. It won’t ring, won’t ping.

You’re not going to be tempted to type on your keyboard. You’ll have less interruptions.

And as one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, has said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes – including you.”

We need to unplug. That’s what I mean by doing nothing and outside is one of the best places to do that.

Number three, become aware when you’re quiet, when you’re still. When you’re outside, it’s so much easier to become aware, not just of your own thoughts, but of your senses.

Think about those for a minute. Become aware of what you’re feeling and by feeling, I mean, what you’re touching, what you’re hearing, what you’re tasting. And yeah. You’re always tasting stuff based on what you’re smelling.

So what do you smell? And most importantly, what are you seeing?

If you’re silent, if you’re becoming more aware, you’ll learn to see more deeply.

And isn’t that a goal that all of us have as artists. To learn, to see deeply.

When you can become still and aware, especially if you can become still and aware in front of your subject, it’s so much easier to begin to see deeply.

And I promise the more you see, the more you’ll see.

The more time you spend seeing and looking and observing, the more you’ll see deeply. The more you’ll see about line, shape, color, and form; light, value, and composition. All of those tools that we have in our toolbox.

Then number four, play.

If you’re doing all the first three things that we’ve talked about: being and not doing, being outside and being unplugged, becoming more aware, the next step is to allow yourself just to play with what’s available.

Play means to not be so attached to the outcome. Children play all the time.

I’ve been watching my granddaughter and how she plays.

Children just naturally play. They don’t get attached to what’s going to happen. They take what’s right in front of them and they create an activity with it.

They’re light with it. And they’re detached from the outcome.

So play, stay light and stayed detached.

You’ll find that those four will recharge your batteries, create that reset. Because you’ve created a space for the new creative ideas to enter in.

I hope this is helpful. If it is, let me know your thoughts down below in the comments and feel free to share this with anyone else you think needs to hear it.

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Keeping Paints from Drying Out On the Palette

Keeping Paints from Drying Out On the Palette

How to Save Paint without Putting It in the Freezer or Refrigerator


Have you ever been told to put your palette in the refrigerator or freezer so your paint wouldn’t dry out between sessions?

I’m betting you have.

This is such common advice, and although well intentioned, it’s terrible advice for a couple of reasons.

Number 1: You should never store paints alongside of food. That should be enough right there. Paint off gasses. And you’re going to put it next to food??

Number 2: Temperatures below freezing alter the molecular structure of paint.

I get asked about this a lot, and about what to do instead. And after it came up again inside both my online course and free Facebook group, I decided it was time to talk about it some more.

After mixing a beautiful palette of paint, people want to keep that paint wet so they can use it longer.  No one wants to waste paint.

So I’m going to cover how you can keep the main three wet longer: watercolor, acrylic, and oils.


Watercolor (Remember they don’t have to stay wet.)
Mijello Fusion Airtight/Leakproof Palettes
Add a damp paper towel. Be sure to replace every week.

Masterson Sta-Wet Premier Palette
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet with Lid
Use 3-4 layers of damp paper towel with a piece of palette paper on top.

Masterson Sta-Wet Palette Seal
Any palette box with clove oil on pads or q-tips.

What’s your favorite way to keep your paint workable?

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Why You Should Use a Toned Ground

Why You Should Use a Toned Ground

One of the best ways to speed up your process, and unify your painting all in one go is to use a toned ground. And as an added bonus, you bypass some of the difficulties that are present when you’re faced with a blank white canvas. In today’s Quick Tip session, I’m going to cover what a toned ground can do for you, and a simple process to get started.

I want to go over first, what a ground is and then about how you would go about putting that onto your. Surface that you’re going to paint on a ground is simply the surface. You’re going to paint on top of, and sometimes it’s considered also the surface that you’re actually preparing, prepping and creating.

So it’s both the panel that you’re painting on. And it’s what you do to seal that panel or that canvas and using a toned ground. You bypass some of the difficulties. That are present when you’re faced with that white canvas, a lot of people are intimidated when they are staring at a blank white canvas.

It can be a little bit overwhelming someone. The first things that a toned ground can do for you is it can eliminate that overwhelm and that intimidation factor. So it is a really good idea as far as something that can jump, start your painting process and get you over that hurdle of the blank white canvas staring at you.

It also speeds up your painting process and, establishing a middle value. Very quickly so that if you want to create a strong sense of space and dimension, all you need to do add is a lighter value and a darker value to create that sense of space. So it speeds up the process from that direction as well.

And as a bonus, it also helps to unify the entire painting. I’m going to show you an example of that in just a minute. Now in the two panels that you see right here. This was one of my panel prepping afternoons, and I did it outside so that it would speed up the drawing time. I use yellow ochre as the tone color for my grounds, and I almost always paint on its own ground.

The only time that I don’t is in the middle of the Southern summer. If I’m painting a noonday scene or a mid morning, mid-afternoon the light here in the middle of summer is glaring white. So the town ground goes away at that time of year. But in general, the color of the light here is, has a gold tint to it.

So I ended up using yellow ochre. Now you can use acrylic to tone the ground if you’re, if you’re working on top of something that has an acrylic. sealant on it. So if you’ve used acrylic gesso, you can use acrylic paint to tone the ground. But if you’ve got something that has an oil primer on it, you cannot put acrylic paint on top of that.

So keep that in mind. I used, oil, acrylic paint on these to tone them and apply them very thinly. For the most part. One reason I blew this one up is so you can see the difference between the panel on the left and the panel on the right. The one on the left, the paint was thicker. And so it appears muddier and a little bit more opaque.

Than the one on the right. I like to keep it very thin. So it’s fairly transparent and you can see some of the white of the painting support showing through. Not as a glaring white, but as kind of a golden light. So yellow ochre is one of those colors that goes muddy in a pile when it’s thick, and golden and transparent when it’s thin. If you’re using an oil color to tone the ground, I advocate that you not use thinner or solvent. Don’t dilute the oil paint with solvent. I just take a paper towel and smear the paint thinly on, so that I’m not having to use any solvent to thin it out.

Avoid the solvent, but apply it really thinly. And it gives you that nice golden surface. Be sure to let it dry before you start painting, or you’re going to end up with a muddy mess.

People use different colors for toning or underpainting. If you’re working on a portrait, you want to use something that’s a contrast. What your subject is a still life that becomes completely up to you. I know people who use an orange color, and ones who use green and blue.

It’s really a personal preference and up to you. If you’ve never used one before, I’d experiment a little bit.

So in this one, you can see where I’ve toned to the ground really loosely, with a paper towel, smearing the paint around so that it covered the panel super thinly. Those marks you see are from the paint smearing with the paper towel, not from a big brush, but if you’re going to use a brush with acrylic, then use a giant one.

Don’t worry about the marks you’re making, because they’re going to get covered up for the most part. Then I have marked out the big shapes. Lightly really thinly, with the color that I’m going to block in with. So I use the tip of my knife, but you could use a small brush. I don’t always do this. I did this for a demo for a course, a class.

That’s what it looks like in the very beginning. Then at the end, that toned ground can be almost completely covered up.

Peeking through, down there in the bottom and the water reflections and a little bit up in this sky, then I’ve also added paint at the very end. That was almost the same color as the tone to ground. And then it begins to help pull it all together, but that underlying color can become a unifying factor.

I would strongly recommend that you prep some panels or perhaps some canvases or paper with a toned ground.

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Storm over the Salt Marsh

Storm over the Salt Marsh

“Storm over the Salt Marsh”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Storm over the Salt Marsh”, oil, 5 x 7″, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

The captivating odor of salty air, hot sun on warm cedars and pines, and the rich tang of pluff mud.

That’s the scent of the Lowcountry.

A land full of water…creeks, rivers, inlets, sounds, and of course, the sea.

The wide open spaces of the salt marshes are the perfect meeting of the drama of the sky, and the light across water and grasses.

A late afternoon storm was blowing in with clouds blocking the last of the sun, leaving ribbons of light on the water.

Watching a storm roll in over that big an expanse, whether it’s the marsh or the ocean, is a reminder of how big nature is, and how truly small humans are in the grand scheme of things.

Golden Fall, Botany Bay

Golden Fall, Botany Bay

“Golden Fall, Botany Bay”, oil, 6 x 6”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Golden Fall, Botany Bay”, oil, 6 x 6”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

The golden fall light paints the marshes of Botany Bay with rich color beyond the usual green.

Fall takes its time arriving in the Lowcountry, but the gold and haze are characteristic. Heat and lower angled light.

Botany Bay is a state heritage/wildlife management site on Edisto Island, protected and open to the public.

The “Boneyard Beach”, where the trees killed by advancing salt water have fallen, is dramatic and the main attraction for most visitors.

But my favorite sections are the pine and oak woods on the edges of the old fields, and wide open marshes.