Posts in paintings
2018 -- a Year in Review

Reviewing a whole year is a hard thing. Once you sit down to do it you realize how slippery the days can be. How difficult to contain with words or even photos.

I had my fair share of failures, mistakes and frustrations in 2018, but I don’t want to focus on them here. We can learn from our mistakes and I’m certainly using those lessons as I plan for the new year, but my focus for today is celebrating the good stuff.

I am so grateful to be doing what I do. Making art. Writing this blog. Teaching. I’m grateful for you, whether you’re a customer, student or simply pause here on occasion to read my words.

Even though it can be tricky condense a year into a definable whole, I find it satisfying to look back and remember all I’ve accomplished. (You can see past posts on my old blog for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011). Maybe you like to do it, too? If you feel as if you’re moving forward at a snail’s pace it can be helpful to look back and see how truly far you’ve come.

I chose PRESENT for my Word of the Year for 2018. I’m not sure how successful I was at remaining Present throughout the year, but it was a good reminder that I continued to turn to. I never did manage to make meditation a habit, but I wrote in my journal nearly every day. Mindfulness is something I’ll continue to carry with me into 2019.

I began 2018 with a Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity (and a typo, since fixed, in my image for it — pondering mistakes and missteps in the beginning of the year was good for me and my business, I think).

A Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity -- Crafting a More Creative Year

My intention was to be more creative throughout my days, to focus more on making all the time and to be able to wear me-mades as much as possible. It’s easy to let creative projects slip for lack of time or energy and I wanted to try to turn that on its head. Sewing and crochet were two things I wanted to tackle in part because I already had a lot of fabric and yarn stored away in my studio closet. This push didn’t really have anything to do with my business, but it had to do with me as a person, which in turn affects all areas of my life.

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Looking back I did tackle (and finish) a lot of personal projects in 2018 and I want to do more in 2019. I’m still dreaming of a way to integrate art-making and crafting as part of my business. Fabric design is part of it, but I want to take it a step further. Stay tuned!

As for fabric design, I created a new a fabric collection in 2018.

Into which I added one of my absolute favorite designs, also created this year (and available in a larger scale than seen below).

I love how it turned out and so did lots of other people. It was voted a community favorite on Spoonflower and it’s sold very well. I updated my designs from past years with new dates and they’ve been popular, too.

Because I loved creating these tea towels I decided to share my process in a class on Skillshare.

In total I filmed and taught four new classes on Skillshare in 2018.

I began teaching in person this year, too. I taught three series of watercolor classes at the library in town (where I also work part time). I had no idea how teaching in person would go, but I ended up really enjoying it (and learning a lot from my students — many thanks to everyone who took classes with me this year!).

Through the month of February I had a little exhibit of my paintings at the local library.

Paintings by Anne Butera on Exhibit at the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, Wisconsin in February of 2018

I’ve had some paintings on display at Matthias’s shop in town this year, too.

Anne Butera's Art on Exhibit at Mac Help in Viroqua, Wisconsin

My art got some nice recognition further afield in 2018.

Anne Butera's Art Was Featured in Publications Around the World in 2018

My nasturtiums painting was on the cover of The Essential Herbal Magazine in September/October. One of my illustrations was included in Flow Magazine’s 2019 Tear off Calendar. I was a featured designer on the Pattern Observer Blog in November. And perhaps, most exciting to me, my 2019 desk calendar was featured in Cottages and Bungalows Magazine!

Printing last year’s calendar was so frustrating and I knew I needed a change in how I did things. This year I had my calendars professionally printed. It made things so much easier for me and allowed my 2019 calendars to be my most successful yet.

Something completely new for me this year was my first time on a podcast. I was interviewed by Angie Noll on The Not Starving Artist Podcast in May.

Sketchbooks continue to be an important part of my art practice, although my work in them often comes in ebbs and flows.

This year I started another collaborative sketchbook project with Dana Barbieri.

a page from the second collaborative sketchbook by Anne Butera and Dana Barbieri

We aren’t sharing our pages the way we did with the first project and that has made working in the sketchbook feel very free. In 2019 I hope to hang onto that free feeling and dive even deeper into my own sketchbooks.

One big change this year: I moved my blog from blogger to my website. In a lot of ways I wish I had done it earlier. It feels good to have everything in one place. I’m not entirely certain which direction I want to take with my blog in 2019. Any thoughts from a reader’s perspective?

The backbone of everything has been, of course, my watercolors.

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Looking at all these paintings makes me look forward to 2019’s gardening season and having ample subjects for my watercolors.

2018 was a weird year in the garden, but I wish I had taken more photos. Even in their imperfection the photos I did take bring me so much joy (especially when everything out there is frozen solid).

A View in My Garden in 2018

The beauty about a garden is that each year we get a chance for a fresh start. It’s also the beauty of this time of year. When January rolls around we get a fresh start with our lives, a chance to think and plan and decide what’s most important for us in the new year.

I hope that you are looking to 2019 with excitement and hope. Here’s to a joy-filled, beautiful, creative year for us both! Thanks, again, for spending time on this journey with me. See you again in 2019!

Summer Love Songs and Savoring Each Day

It's the last day of August. I can't quite believe it. Throughout the month I've been noticing the beginnings of fall. It seems early this year.

Summer's my season and although autumn can be beautiful its arrival always makes me a bit melancholy.

I will miss:

Some of the last roses blooming in my garden
  • cut flowers from the garden
  • tomatoes and peppers and herbs (and all the other edibles)
  • endless salads (kale, kale and more kale)
  • being barefoot (or if shoes are necessary, sandals)
  • leaving the house without a jacket
  • spending whole days outside
  • having the windows and doors open (and cats stretched out in windowsills)
  • bees and butterflies and hummingbirds
  • the songs of crickets and cicadas
  • late sunsets
  • the color green (and all the other colors)

I could keep going, but you get the picture.

A little toad is a welcome garden visitor

This week in our area there's been terrible flooding. We weren't hit badly as we live in town at a high point (and my parents, out in the country, are on a ridge), but it's heartbreaking to see devastating flooding happening more and more frequently so close to where we live. It puts my troubles in perspective. Reminds me, again, to savor each day.

So instead of lamenting the loss of all I love about the summer, I've been making a point to savor the days.

Each day.

I try to stop what I'm doing periodically and pay attention to everything around me, to be fully present. Stand in the garden and feel the grass between my toes, to note the perfect beauty of the moment and send off a thank you to the universe.

Three years ago on my old blog I wrote about painting a "love song to summer".

It's one of my favorite paintings, the biggest I've ever done. Truly a love song to my favorite season. 

Some years I paint a lot during the summer. Some years I don't. Creativity ebbs and flows. Energy ebbs and flows. In the summer it's always a challenge to stay inside when my garden is calling me to BE OUTSIDE. It's a bit ironic because summer holds the most inspiration for my art.

In a way you could say that a majority of my paintings are love songs to summer. This one, finished the other day, certainly is.

As are the vegetable (or fruit, depending on your perspective) paintings I've been inspired to paint this week:

What better way to celebrate the joys of summer than to paint them?

Although, I think eating them is a prefect celebration, too. In the summer with abundant garden produce it's easy to quickly pull together delicious meals. 

Many days I make the easiest tomato salads. Large chunks of tomato dressed with shavings of onion, shreds of basil, splashes of balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper. Nothing tastes more summery.

And eggplant, chopped (with the skin still on), mixed with splashes of olive oil and a shake of some salt and pepper roasted in a 400 degree for about 40ish minutes is a versatile addition to pasta or salads or rice. It pairs as easily with Italian flavors as it does with Asian ones and I'm thinking about trying it in some tacos, too.

I'd love to know how YOU have been celebrating the season these days.

Will you join me in renewing a commitment to savor the moment, in focusing on gratitude as we shift from August to September and begin the transition from one season to the next?

For me, I think it might be a good time to bring out my Joy Lists* again.

I hope your lists are long.

 
Watercolor Sunflowers from Start to Finish

Sunflowers embody the spirit of summertime. Of buzzing bees and hazy days. Shrill cicadas and fluffy white clouds floating in blue skies. They're some of my favorite plants to grow in my garden. I love the flowers, so many shapes and colors and sizes, but what I like even more is that they feed the bees and the birds.

My garden is filled with flowers calling me to paint them, but right now it's the sunflowers I couldn't resist.

It's been a while since I've painted a larger painting, one that takes many hours to finish. It's nice to paint small and quick, but there's something much more satisfying about a larger piece. It's more difficult -- takes more concentration, more patience -- but the end result is much more substantial.

Each painting starts the same way. I wash the old paint off my palette. That in itself is energizing. A fresh start.

Washing My Paint Palette to Prepare for a New Painting

One of my favorite parts of the painting process is mixing my colors. I study my subjects and decide which colors I'll need and try to re-create them with paint. I do this mostly intuitively, but I also consult my sketchbooks where I've painted swatches and made notes on color mixing.

In My Studio Mixing Colors on My Watercolor Palette in Preparation for Painting a New Piece

When I was first learning to paint I was impatient to get started and saw things like practicing color mixing as "busywork". So not true. If you want to learn how to paint with watercolor spend as much time as you can mixing and testing colors. I find it to be soothing and meditative. It's a bit magical and the colors always bring me joy.

Once my colors are mixed I make some rough sketches in my sketchbook, trying to figure out my composition. And then I make a very light sketch on my watercolor paper.

In My Studio Sketching out a New Painting

(Can you spot my studio assistant hard at work?).

I don't start painting right away. I prefer working with the paint once my mixed colors have dried on the palette. I'm able to get a much broader range of tones working this way. Using the wet mixes there's so much water that the colors end up very light.

Once the paint is dry I get started. One petal at a time, letting each dry before painting an adjacent petal.

The First Stage of a Watercolor Painting of Sunflowers by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

I layer and blend colors while the paper is wet and then go back to add more layers and finish it off with fine details.

The Process of Painting a Sunflower with Watercolor Involves Many Layers

The details are what bring the painting to life. 

I Paint One Flower at a Time, One Petal at a Time, Finishing Each with Fine Details

It helps to have the flowers on hand to refer back to, especially when adding the details. I noticed that the base of each of the petals of this light-colored sunflower was a brighter, warmer yellow. When I went back and added some more yellow it made all the difference. I wish I had a "before" picture to show you, but when I'm in the groove, I often forget to photograph. Below you can see the contrast in the next flower between the petals with details and those without.

Notice the Difference Between the Petals That Have Gotten Details and Those That Have Not in this In-Progress Sunflower Watercolor Painting

I am constantly rotating the paper when I'm working on a painting. Sometimes I knock things off my table in the process, but it makes painting so much easier. When I film my classes for Skillshare I struggle with trying to make sure I keep the page in the view of the camera and in-focus. Trying not to move the page is SOO hard.

Painting Details on the Back of a Sunflower is Just as fun as Painting a Flower From the Front

The rules of composition suggest that an odd number of flowers is more pleasing than an even number. Maybe it's the rule-breaker in me, but I often paint an even number of flowers. In this case there are three different varieties of sunflower so perhaps the two smaller flowers are acting as one.

The finished painting feels balanced, but not in a boring way.

A Finished Watercolor Painting of Summer Sunflowers by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Although there were times throughout the process that I doubted everything coming together, my mantra was "you've got this". Each day I was excited to get back to my painting table and pick up where I'd left off. And the finished painting (now available in my shop) is so full of joy. Looking at it I can just about hear the buzzing bees and droning cicadas.

Now what should I paint next?

 
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