Getting my painting groove back

As my travels have slowed, it felt so good to finally get into the studio this week, but getting back into the groove of painting wasn’t easy.

I find that when I’ve had a big break from painting my first attempts feel awkward and ugly, I feel  frustrated, wondering why I’m even doing it. That Voice in my head starts saying “why do you even think you’re an artist, maybe you should go do something else.” But I keep at it, I keep playing, putting colors down on the surface, trying not to think too much or listen to that voice. I often listen to audiobooks when I paint to disconnect and over ride that voice, because I know from experience that if I just keep painting I’m going to hit my groove and it’s going to feel good again. Like anything, it takes time and energy to excel.

One of the reasons I like to put random color down on my canvas (or fabric) first is because a blank canvas can feel so intimidating, and when there are colors, shapes and textures, I can look at that surface and try to pull the image out of it. 

I’ll find areas of interest to create a focus and then cover up other areas that may be less interesting or unnecessary for the composition. I like having partial images or text show through that might make ones eye look deeper to hold clues as to what might lie beneath, or simply create visual texture and interest.

I like to add symbols or images that don’t relate to anything, but because our minds naturally want to decipher meaning in words and images the painting will begin to create a unique story of its own. 

I love the graphic symbol of a house. The shape itself can be quite nice, but then as an archetype it can represent the self or ones life. It could be one’s relationships, personality or feelings, or the space one occupies in the world. 

This canvas started out painted in shades of pink, red and green. I didn’t have a plan before hand. I just started outlining shapes with blue, first the cactus shapes, and simple trees, then I outlined the houses using blue and white which slowly turned into snow drifts and night sky. The stars show a glow made from the colors that were first painted on the canvas.

I think it’s really important to play when creating, and be present in the process, without any expectations in the outcome. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, and that’s ok. Move on, because even when the work is shit, most likely you’ve still learned something while doing it that you can keep in mind for the next thing you do.

The best advice I can give for creating is sharing the wise words of artist composer John Cage 

“Begin anywhere”

There’s only a couple more weeks til Craft Napa, where I’ll be teaching a painting on canvas workshop called Collage Paint Create! I’m really looking forward to teaching this one, and hope to do more like it in the future.

I’ll also be teaching a 2 day Paint and Printapalooza class which is a really fun one if you’ve ever wanted to try designing and printing your own fabric. Students will learn a variety of surface design techniques, including shibori, to create colorful backgrounds that will be printed with stamps and screen printed using thermofax screens. I know you’ll be hooked when you see how fun it is.

Consider treating yourself to a gift of creating to start 2019 off right!

Happy Holidays!

Keep creating,


I’d love to spark your creativity at one of these upcoming events:


January 16-20 Craft Napa: 2 day Paint and Printapalooza (Open),
Collage, Paint, Create! (Sold out),
Make an Impression! (Open)

I heard there’s been some cancellations for Craft Napa due to recent events, so some workshops that were closed may now have openings. 

January 30 Valley Quilt Guild, Marysville, CA Lecture

March 11, 12 CT Piecemakers Quilt Guild, Trumbull, CT
Blessings in the Wind Prayer Flags

March 21, 22 Narragansett Bay Quilters Association, RI
Tea & Ephemera

May 17-18 Meissners, Santa Rosa, TBA

June 6, 7 Palmer Divide Quilters, Monument, CO
Tea & Ephemera


Judy is an artist, explorer, image wrangler, knowledge seeker, instructor, speaker, creative alchemist, and purveyor of inspiration, helping others channel creativity on a daily basis.

6 Responses to “Getting my painting groove back”

  1. Jane: Rhoden says:

    I have a couple of your books. Took your class in Houston three yrs ago. I am not doing well with acrylic inks. Are you ever coming to Florida? Jane

    • Hi Jane,
      for these paintings I’m using fluid acrylics because I’m working on canvas. They would be too stiff to work with on fabric. I would love to come to Florida, I don’t having any bookings there right now though. If you have a local group that might be interested in having me teach please have them drop me an email and we can try to set something up. 🙂

  2. Karen Valderrama says:

    I enjoyed, and found useful, your comments on painting, your temporary struggles and need for continuing on. Thanks!

    • Hi Karen,

      thanks for commenting on this. I thought it would be helpful to share the insecurities and struggles I have so people will know that even the people they see as “professional” or “successful” also struggle with feelings of doubt and self judgement.

  3. Marci says:

    You are so right about learning something from a project even when the results fall short of your expectations. I’ve started quilting, thinking it would be a snap as I’ve sewn for years. Uh … no! It’s humbling but a definite learning experience.

    Your work always makes me smile because of the bright colors and unexpected composition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    PS – the white leaves in the pieces you did recently are so crisp. Did you put resist on the canvas at the beginning?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Marci,

      the white leaves were drawn on using a white paint marker that has acrylic ink in it. I have tried a lot of brands of paint markers and I’m in love with the white one made by Posca, it is more opaque than many of the other brands. It also comes in a variety of tip sizes, I like the 3m for finer lines (used for the leaves) and the 5m for bolder lines.

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