Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Painting From Your Mind Rather Than From a Photo or Observation.

Painting from one's mind rather than a photograph or observation can be tough. However, if you focus, it could be one of the most rewarding gifts to an artist. The ability to put on paper or canvas what he/she sees in his/her mind  doesn’t come easy for everyone. But with a little bit of training, programming, observation and emotion anyone can achieve it.

This weekend I ran the Ragnar Trail Relay at Alafia River State Park. It was an amazing race and the trails were spectacular. But just before the race started, my beloved iPhone died. At first, I was disappointed because I wanted to take pictures of the different trails I was about to run. But then, I realized that it was going to be better not having a phone since it would free my hands, in case I tripped over a root (famous on these trails) and it will be an excellent opportunity to train my brain to capture the moment visually and recreate it in my studio.

Well, so what to do? My phone was dead. How was I going to record what I saw? I decided to try to record the amazing beauty by just using my memory. When I saw something spectacular, I looked at it and looked at it and told my brain to record as much info as you can. I would focus on the light, the colors and textures and what I was feeling in that moment. I felt that the emotion would anchor it more in by being. When there is emotion in an action, our brains record the moment better as part of survival instinct. I had to do this while running because I had a teammate waiting for me at the transition. I did this exercise on every consecutive leg I had to run. Yes, I had to run three different trails at three different times of the day (afternoon, night and sunrise). Lucky me, I am a slow runner so I got to observe more than all the Speedy Gonzalez's that passed me. Also, lucky me again, when I ran I had amazing light, even at night. With the eyes of an artist everything always looks amazing.

So did my experiment worked? Was I able to recreate what I saw on the trails?

On Sunday afternoon, since I couldn't do much because I was all sore, I focused on painting. I was amazed how much I could remember. I couldn't stop painting. Just that afternoon, I painted from memory more than half a dozen small paintings. The images were stuck in my brain and flowing through my hands onto the carton. I didn't look for any reference. I didn't want any distraction or influences on my fresh memories. I focused on remembering everything I felt while running. I know that probably the memories aren't completely photographic images or realistic. But I love them. They tell the story of my race and what I saw and felt in the moment. They are the images recorded in my head painted on a carton and my story of wonderful race.

So here are my "Little Sketches for Big Ideas" from memory. I hope you enjoy them and see the Ragnar Trail Relay at Alafia River State Park, through the eyes of an artist who happens to run very slow and who records the beauty in the moment through her eyes of her memories.

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Thank you for readying this post.

Vanessa Montenegro

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©2016 Vanessa Montenegro
All photos, images and text are copyright protected. Not to be used without permission.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why should you have a sketchbook?

Why should you have a sketchbook?

At Vanessa’s Art Studio, I am constantly telling my art students to get a sketchbook and work on it on the daily basis. Many of my students ask why having a sketchbook is so important. Here are the reasons why you should have a sketchbook:

  • The sketchbook is a place to test and refine ideas. The sketchbook is the place where concepts are developed before drafting them on canvas or paper. Feel free to experiment a concept on your sketchbook and see if you can translate it later into a finished work.
  • The sketchbook is where you practise your drawing and painting skills. Practise makes progress. Progress is the fuel of energy that keeps us creating and growing as artists.
  • While many sketchbooks are considered works of art by themselves, they don’t have to be. The sketchbook can be used as a preparatory study of a subject, a final concept, a gathering of information or simply contain a moment in time you decided to record with your pencil.
  • Sketchbooks are great ways to see your own progress as an artist over the months and years. It is fun to flip back on your sketchbook and see where have you been and what have you done.
  • The sketchbook will help you loosen up and be more confident with your lines and work.
  • A sketchbook is a great icebreaker and tool to get connected with other artists. It is a great way to show others what you are working on and start a conversation.
  • Accessibility. It is easy to carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go than carry a big canvas or drawing board. Just reach out to your pocket or purse and start drawing the subject that captures your attention.
  • Phone and cameras versus sketchbooks. Phone and cameras are great tools to have but if they run out of battery or the light is not good, they aren't as helpful. A sketchbook is always there, with poor light or no electricity, you can always sketch. In addition, sometimes the cameras and phones capture too much or too little information, which doesn’t tell the entire story. On a sketchbook, you can tell the story with images and words combine them and created them as they flow.
  • Disconnect from the world. A sketchbook can help you disconnect from the world and distractions of emails and social media and bring you back to living in the moment. Taking the time to observe and sketch what you see as it is happening, helps you be in be in the moment.

Are there any rules for a sketchbook?

  • The rule is that there are no rules.
  • You can use any media inside your sketchbook; however, I recommend that if you plan to use any paint media, you pick a sketchbook that supports mixed media or paint.
  • The sketchbook should be personal and reveal your artist's response to your environment.
  • The sketchbook doesn’t have to be perfect. The nice thing about a sketchbook is that if the drawing or painting didn’t come out how you wanted it, you just move to the next page and start over.
  • Not every sketch, drawing or painting on your sketchbook needs to be a pretty drawing or masterpiece. They also don’t have to be finished drawings.
  • Use the sketchbook for copying at museums, drawing from imagination and developing complex paintings. On your sketchbook, you can work from imagination, photographs or life. You can draw with pen and ink, pencil, paint, watercolor or any other media.
  • Your sketchbook is your playground. There should be freedom. Try not to hesitate or be self-conscious of how it looks. Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes. Remind yourself that this is your sketchbook and there is no need to share it or show it to anyone.
  • On your sketchbook, you can work sequentially through a single page or not. There are no rules since your sketchbook is yours only and you are the queen or king on it.
  • As a way to see progress, I do recommend that you date your drawings. This will help you in the future when you look at your sketchbook and wonder when you created that drawing.

What kind of sketchbook should I buy?

  • The sketchbook can be of any kind. It could be a hardcover with good bidding or as simple a folder with pages or an old book.
  • You should buy the one that best suits your individual artistic needs and budget.
  • You want a sketchbook that you can keep with you at all times so that when inspiration hits you, you are ready to record it on your sketchbook.

Thank you for readying this post.

Vanessa Montenegro

For more information about my art and my classes, visit
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©2016 Vanessa Montenegro
All photos, images and text are copyright protected. Not to be used without permission.

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Health Benefits of Art

In the last couple of weeks, I have started going with my husband to the parks and started painting outdoors again. I felt I needed to be surrounded by nature in order to get inspired. And I did. While painting outdoors, I discovered that I was very happy. I felt at peace and connected to nature. I felt relax, less anxious and more energies. I forgot about my problems and I didn't feel tired. I don't know if it was a combination of both, nature and art, but I felt healthy. As a result, this month I decided to point out some of the benefits art can provide to our health.

What are the health benefits of doing art?

1) Art encourages creative thinking, enhances problem-solving skills and encourage us to come up with our own solution. Art boosts our brain by boosting our imagination and stimulating both left and right brain hemispheres. This helps us deal better with the rational and logic part of the brain and maximize our creativity and emotions. Art also helps the brain get new connections, helping increase brain connectivity and plasticity.

2) Art boosts our self-esteem and provides us with a sense of accomplishment. I see it all the time at the art studio when a student gets all excited that he/she was able to finish a drawing or a painting which he/she never thought she could do it.

3) Art also helps us create new connections in the brain. Learning to hold and handle a brush and/or pencil helps stimulate that connection between the hand movement and the brain.

4) Art works as a type of meditation by helping us concentrate on details and pay more attention to our environment. It also helps us relieve stress and make us feel calm and at peace. Creating art provides the brain with a distraction and a break from unhealthy thoughts and problems.

5) Finally, art helps us with our emotions creating harmony between our heart, soul, and our brain.

So next time you feel a little bit down, distracted or forgetful, just come to the studio and lets create some art.



For more information, visit

©2016 Vanessa Montenegro
All photos, images and text are copyright protected. Not to be used without permission.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Don't Quit Creating Art! Success Is Right Around The Corner.

Blue Wave © vanessa montenegro
"Blue Wave" By Vanessa Montenegro
Today, I received a rejection email from a residency that I really wanted to participate. I had made it almost to the last round, but then, I was rejected. Last week, I received a rejection email from a show I had applied in January. I had worked so hard on the piece for the show but it was rejected. Yes, both emails suck. But as an artist, at a certain point in your career, you are going to meet failure, rejection, and frustration. They always hang out together and are constantly there creating doubt and tempting you to quit. So my advice is to not stop creating art when you meet them because the truth is that the more you fail, the closer you are to discover success and achieving your art mastery.

Michael Jordan, the famous basketball player, has a quote that says:
"I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."
Michael Jordan

My quote is very similar.
"If I have failed, that means I am getting closer to succeeding and achieving my dreams!"
Vanessa Montenegro

Not everything we create as artists is going to be beautiful, perfect or masterpieces. Out of ten pieces, maybe three will be amazing and the other seven were the learning lessons that allow us to achieve the three amazing pieces. So, what do you do? Keep the three successful ones and toss the other seven, so they don't become baggage in your art life.

Will you be rejected as an artist? You bet. It is part of the job description. If not, ask the Impressionist. As an artist, you will be rejected many times and yes it hurts because your art means that your creativity, process, and technique are being rejected. Don't take it personally. Art is in the eye of the beholder and not everyone sees things the same way. Plus, there might be people with more experience, resources, and connections than you who are applying to the same show.

So what do you do when you are rejected from an art show? I have learned that when I am not accepted to an art show rather that quitting, I look at it as an opportunity to raise my standards. I say to myself "What do I have to do to have better chances the next time?" My first step is looking at what I did and to figure out what I could have done better. Then, I search the artwork of the people who were selected and rather than seeing them with envy, I see them with admiration and I try to learn from them. Search their careers. Learn their techniques. Where there is a success, there is a trail of lessons. So, I look at what I am missing, start getting out of my comfort zone and start creating new art. I don’t quit.

Why don’t you quit when you fail? Someone told me once that if I wasn't failing, I wasn't trying hard enough and I was living in my comfort zone. How correct was that person to tell me that. That same person also told me that "the day one stop fearing, one starts living." The day that person said that to me is the day I became an artist. As an artist, I already know rejection, failure, and frustration. I hate when they show up because they are the unexpected guests that make me want to run away. But, I also know that when I meet them, it means I am trying hard enough, getting out of my comfort zone and living. They show me what doesn’t work and allow me to search for a better way to find success.

I am sharing this with you because I see students sometimes afraid of trying new things because they fear rejection, failure or frustration. They limit themselves or worst they quit the first time they meet failure or frustration. This is my advice to you, the day you put your fears away is the day you will start living and enjoying the process of creating art more than the final pieces. Excitement will run in your veins and become the catalyst for your own success. The day you give up because of fear of failure is the day you fail. While you are still trying, there is hope. Hope always defeats failure, rejection, and frustration. So, stop fearing that your piece doesn’t look good or people will not like your work or that you will be rejected. Art is in the eye of the beholder and there are many beholders. So shift your perception of your art and you will shift your life as an artist. Start enjoying the process and if you get stuck, come to my art studio. I am sure I can guide you and help you to take it to the next step.

Vanessa's Art Studio

Copyright © 2016 Vanessa Montenegro

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How to protect your artwork from being damage?

Which are the most common ways artworks gets destroyed? 
Answer: Water damage, direct sunlight, and physical damage. 
Here are some few tips on how to protect your artwork from being damage.

In that case of oil paintings and acrylics: 

  1. Vanish your artwork to protect it from dust, dirt, and moisture. 
  2. Keep your original artwork out of direct sunlight to prevent discoloration. 
  3. Protect it against humidity by keeping your artwork in a cool dry place to avoid water damage and mold. Avoid places where temperatures and humidity levels fluctuate a great deal since extreme temperatures and moisture can damage the artwork. Temperature fluctuations can also affect canvas stretcher bars by expanding them and contracting them, which will result in the canvas either sagging and/or cracking the paint. 
  4. Framing artwork always adds an extra protection to the edges of the paintings. However, paintings don’t need to be framed under glass. 
  5. For extra protection, attach small cork pieces to the back of the frame to prevent mold from forming, by allowing air to circulate behind your framed art.
  6. Never spray commercial cleaners on your painting. Never use commercial products to clean your bare artwork. Use a feather duster to dislodge dust particles from the surface. Cloth material may leave lint.
  7. When moving the artwork, warp your artwork properly by using cardboard corners and bubble wrap or sheets to cover them. Secure them well before moving your art.  Avoid leaving the artwork too long in the packaging as moisture may form and damage your painting.

Drawing, Oil Pastel, Color Pencil, Charcoal and Watercolors

  1. Frame art behind glass, preferably under UV-protected glass. Frame your artwork under a glass or clear plastic frame to protect it from dust tears, sunlight, dirty fingers, insects, and accidental damages
  2. Also in the case of watercolors, colors may fade if watercolors are exposed to strong lighting conditions. In the case of pastels, full sun can fade the colors but they can survive strong light or indirect sunlight. 
  3. Never touch the surface of the art or place anything on its surface to avoid smearing.
  4. In the case of drawings, many artists use fixatives to prevent smears and smudges. While glass offers some UV protection, some artist go an extra step and use several coats of UV protective fixative to provide an extra layer of protection to the artwork and even to displayed without glass. Unprotected colored pencil drawings are likely to be affected by wax bloom, which is a white haze that appears over time as the wax medium rises to the surface. Using several coats of fixative will prevent wax bloom and preserve the look of your original art.
  5. A high-quality UV protective artist fixative is your best choice for a final fixative, and you should always test the product to be sure it performs to your expectations. 

Artwork not displayed

  1. Stored artwork in a clean, dry, dark and well-ventilated area.
  2. Store unframed artwork flat with acid-free paper between each item, and store individual items in archival-quality envelopes. Avoid storing art between cardboard, as it is highly acidic.

Vanessa's Art Studio

Copyright © 2015  Vanessa Montenegro

Summer Camps and Art Workshops at Vanessa's Art Studio

Art Summer Camps for Kids and Teens:
 I am offering summer art camps this year in June and July. 
 Week 1: June 3 - June 7  D...