Interested In Conte Crayons But Don’t Know What They Are Or How To Use Them? Here’s Your Guide!

By Nicole Tinkham

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They resemble pastels and are even located in the same general area in your typical art store, but Conte crayons are actually much different. We’ve found that when the average person doesn’t quite know what a product is, how to use it, or what results it produces they skip right past it and move onto something they are familiar with. Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? While that’s totally normal, we dare you to try at least one new thing this month. That’s right; we’re kicking off the year doing something completely new! And we will strive to bring you a new art supply guide each month to help you pick up a new medium and learn how to use it. This month is all about Conte crayons. Funny thing is, as we were browsing the Keeton’s art department, we glanced at these and instantly thought of pastels. So we did our research, found out how these differ from pastels, how to use them and then came up with this helpful guide. Read on to discover the possibilities of Conte crayons in your next masterpiece.

What are they?

Conte crayons (or sticks) look similar to that of a pastel but are much different. These are a drawing medium made up of compressed charcoal or graphite with the addition of wax or clay mixed in for the base as well as natural pigments for color. Conte crayons are actually commonly used for the initial sketch for a pastel drawing as the colors mix well.

Paper to use them on

You’ll want to use a rough textured paper with Conte crayons as this will hold the pigment better. You can also use a primed canvas for your drawing. Just keep in mind that Conte crayons are better suited for hatched work, not bold lines (as with soft pastels). You’ll notice that many Conte artists use a tinted paper for their drawings, something to consider for a different look.

Conte Crayons versus Pastels and Charcoal

Although Conte crayons look similar to pastels, they are harder and waxier. This means they produce less dust and are easier to control. They actually produce a similar line as charcoal but since they are harder, lines with a Conte crayon will be finer. You’ll also notice that Conte crayons come in different colors but are most commonly found in natural browns, reds, tans, black, and white (great for highlighting). This makes Conte crayons perfect for figure drawing and portraits.

Features

The square sticks are great for producing blocks of pigment, as you would with oil pastels. As mentioned previously, the harder crayon is also great for producing very fine lines. Conte colors are very easily blend-able (we recommend a blending stump) and since they aren’t powdery like charcoal, they work well in layers.

Sharpening

The typical Conte crayon is in a block stick form but it is possible to sharpen. Just use a little sandpaper to sharpen the stick to a chisel point. You can also break the sticks into smaller pieces that are easier to handle.

Working in a medium you’re not too familiar with doesn’t have to be all that scary. It’s important to understand what the medium is, how to use it, and the results it produces before you begin. We also recommend researching helpful techniques and example pieces for inspiration. So now that you know a little bit more about Conte crayons, will you be giving them a try? Let us know in the comments!

25 Art Careers You Need To Consider

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By Nicole Tinkham

If the reason you haven’t turned your passion for art into a career yet is because you don’t think you could make it as an artist, think again! You don’t have to do the scary task of quitting your day job to become your own boss as an artist. You can take a different route and still use your creative skills in a job that leaves you feeling fulfilled and happy. The following list of 25 art careers take a different spin on the typical painter or other art profession you have in mind. Some of these are out of the box but you may be surprised how well they align with your interests and skills. For example, you may have never thought twice about interior design but if you have an eye for color and placement it could be just the career for you. If you want to make art a full time part of your life, read on for 25 brilliant ideas that you need to consider.

1.    Writer – Gets creative with words in stories, poems, screenplays, and more
2.    Interior Designer – Beautifies indoor spaces
3.    Art Teacher – Teaches skills in universities or art workshops
4.    Art Appraiser – Determines the value of artwork
5.    Art Gallery Manager – Ensures that those who come into the gallery are looked after and oversee installations and exhibits
6.    Caricature Artist – Cartooning for parties and events
7.    Fashion Designer – Designs beautiful clothing
8.    Cake Decorator – Creates edible works of art
9.    Actor/singer – Let your talents shine!
10.    Set Designer – Prepares the stage for theater productions
11.    Museum Curator – Organizes exhibits at museums
12.    Tattoo Artist – Applies artwork in the form of a tattoo
13.    Lighting Designer – Creates lighting effects for production
14.    Restoration Artist – Brings back the original look of an old piece of artwork
15.    Landscape Artist – Designs the layout of plants in outdoor spaces
16.    Architect – The art and science behind designing buildings
17.    Product Designer – Designs the look of different products
18.    Medical Illustrator – Illustrations for medical journals and textbooks
19.    Muralist – Creates large scale paintings on buildings
20.    Screen Printing – Creates designs on clothing using a screen and ink or paint
21.    Textile Design – Designs the look of different fabrics
22.    Florist – Arranges flowers and plants
23.    Musician – Creates art for the ears
24.    Glass Blower – Shapes blobs of molten glass into vessels and shapes
25.    Woodworking – Creates artwork and functional pieces out of wood

Of course, doing your own thing as an artist and working for yourself is the perfect alternative to working for someone else. We love the idea and if it’s in your heart, we say go for it! But this list of 25 art careers may be the ideal stepping stone if you aren’t quite ready to be your own boss. Or it may help you discover exactly what you want to do. Whatever the case may be, the important thing is that you’re happy. Look over this list, consider some different options, then do your research and see if these would be a good fit for you.

Tell us, which of these 25 art careers stands out to you? Have something to add to the list? Just let us know in the comments!

New Year Checklist – 10 Things Every Artist Needs To Do

By Nicole Tinkham

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Getting ready for the New Year doesn’t have to be crazy and overwhelming with serious goals and planning. It’s great to have some goals laid out, an idea of where you want to be by the end of the year, and to get organized too. But we also think it’s important to HAVE FUN!! On this list of 10 things every artist needs to do for the New Year, you’ll notice that something fun is included in more than half of the tasks on the list. And if you find a daunting task you don’t want to do, turn it into a game or reward yourself for completing it!

•    Have a new sketchbook ready to go (open it up every day!)

•    Get organized for peace of mind

•    Make a list of things you want to learn – Plan to attend an art workshop, save YouTube videos, buy a new art book, or subscribe to an art magazine

•    Plan something fun – we all need a break. Plan a vacation at some point next year or even a staycation if you have nowhere to go

•    Have your goal and action plan written down

•    Plan regular friend and family time! It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own little world that we forget to spend time with the ones we love

•    Have an open mind – Do something wild, crazy, unexpected, out of the norm, and anything that takes you out of your comfort zone

•    Buy fun colored Post-it Notes to write yourself positive notes and reminders

•    Change up your art room for creative inspiration and more room for new supplies 🙂

•    Get your artist portfolio in line

We believe that having fun is the best way to start the New Year, wouldn’t you agree? Doing something you enjoy is easier to stick with than something you don’t. Start doing some of the things on this list, have fun with it, and don’t stress about starting a new year. Tell us, will you follow this checklist when heading into the New Year?

5 Small Art Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

By Nicole Tinkham

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You are an amazing artist! Whether you’re an experienced artist who’s been creating for awhile or a total beginner, there’s always room for improvement. In fact, these five mistakes that you could be making are ones that you probably already know. But it’s always great to have a reminder. We’ll touch on everything from the media you’re working with to washing your hands before starting a project. Seriously, these are super basic but must-know tips. Read on for 5 small art mistakes that you’re probably making and how to fix them.

1.    Your environment is off

It sounds so simple but let’s face it, artists get messy. It’s just what they (typically) do. Before you begin working on a project, clean up your space. If there are any projects with wet paint, get them out of the way. Gather ALL of the supplies you’ll need before you begin working. Also set your space up to make you feel more creative. Move your easel by the window, move some plants over to the area, and do whatever it is you need to do to get in the zone.

2.    You’re not patient enough

Are you impatient?? No worries if you are, we and many other artists who we know can relate. Remember that it’s important to take the time to let your ink and paint dry completely to prevent unwanted smudging. If you’re working in oils, the struggle is real! You can always use mediums that will speed up the drying time though. Dry time isn’t the only struggle artists face with impatience though. Work with many details can take time, learning takes time, improving your skills takes time, great ideas take time to come up with. Art in general takes time! Take a deep breath, get focused, and try not to rush things.

3.    You’re not working with the right media

Use the right materials! It’s so easy to pick up the closest brush and start creating but it may not be the correct brush for your particular project. If that’s the case, your desired effect could be off and frustration can creep up on you. For example, if you want fine details you should use a small liner brush, not a large flat one. Pick the right supplies for the desired effect and know that quality supplies do go a long way. If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure which supplies are best for your project, just ask! We’re always here to help (call us at 941-747-2995) or ask a fellow artist or instructor. We’ve found that the art community is super supportive so don’t be afraid to speak up and learn from others.

4.    You forgot to wash your hands

This is a simple one but so important and especially so when drawing! The oils from your hands can affect the paper you’re working on and how the pencil lays on it. It’s something you may not think about since when the creative mood strikes you just jump right into it, right? But a quick wash is best before beginning a new project.

5.    You overwork yourself

Everyone needs to take a break. It fuels you to keep going and be more productive. We know many artists who work straight through the night and get very little sleep. We understand that nothing can stop that creative mind of yours but we suggest listening to your body. When you feel overly exhausted, it’s time to take a break. When you’re totally drained and can’t think of any ideas or aren’t moving forward with a project, it’s time for a break. Trust us when we say those breaks will pay off in the long run! You’ll return with a clear mind, ready to go!

You are a talented artist (we’ve seen your work and know this is a true statement 🙂 ) but the little things in this blog make a big difference. As you learn new things, it’s easy to slip up on the small things you’ve probably heard a thousand times in the beginning. Just keep these 5 small art mistakes in the back of your mind on your next project and see the improvement. Even small improvement is still moving you forward! Keep on going artists, you are doing incredible.

9 Tips For Believing In Yourself And Your Artwork

By Nicole Tinkham

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You don’t have to be an artist to be struggling with your belief and confidence but we know many artists who do. It’s not easy being an artist (we’ve written a whole blog on it here) with exposing your creativity to the world, a world who doesn’t all understand what it means to be an artist. There’s a constant battle of ups and downs, feeling like you’re just not cut out to be an artist then selling a major piece. No matter what area in life it is, it’s extremely easy to let the beliefs of others soak into your own mind leaving you to think you’re just not worthy. We are determined though to get your belief back in both yourself and your artwork! Read on for 9 things you can start doing today to boost your confidence.

1.    Get in the right mindset – You need to change those negative beliefs into positive ones. Here’s a simple exercise to help you do it. Write down your negative beliefs, all of them! Just jot them down in your notebook. Now ask yourself if these beliefs are true. If you think they are, what is your evidence? If you don’t have any, that means the belief is false and you need to cross it off your list. Literally, draw a line through each one. Now it’s time to turn that negative belief into a positive one. Here’s an example.

No one likes my artwork.
I have a following of people who love my artwork.

We know that just writing out the positive belief won’t change everything overnight. That’s why you must read your list of positive beliefs every single day. Don’t stop looking them over because this works! The more you read them, the more you’ll start believing in them.

2.    Focus on the process, not the failure. Failure is the top reason for insecurities. We often take failure to heart and are fearful of making the same mistakes in the future. But if we shift our mindset and start looking at mistakes as opportunities to grow, we are more willing to try new things. Your career as an artist is a process. Believing in you is a process as well. Give it time and continue to move forward no matter what.

3.    You are the expert of your own artwork – Maybe you’re feeling insecure and think you don’t know as much as some more experienced artists. First of all, you will get there with time and practice. Also remember that no one knows your artwork better than you. This is where you are truly the expert. You have all the answers and people can’t question it because it’s your creation. You can’t be wrong here! Feeling a little more confident about it now?

4.    Test yourself and see what you can really do – Get out of your comfort zone and do something different and a little scary. This will not only improve your skills but it also makes those other scary things not seem so bad. It’s like having a fear of heights and deciding to go skydiving. Now climbing a ladder won’t seem half as bad! You are capable of so much but you’ll never realize it until you try new things.

5.    Success partner – Having a success partner to help you get through your struggles and to help push you to greater heights has got to be the greatest support system you can have. They’ll be there to work through the problems, help you get over your fears, and reach your goals. Learn how you can find a success partner here.

6.    Don’t compare yourself to other artists – Always look to other artists for inspiration, not comparison! Everyone is on their own journey and at a different stage of the process. Comparing yourself to others can be a very dangerous thing and it’s easy to start feeling very down on yourself by doing so. Realize that you’re on your own path and you’ll get to where you want to go if you keep focused on your own journey.

7.    Read self development books. These will help you get your mind right and become a more positive, happy, and confident person. It doesn’t matter which book you decide to read as long as you’re flooding your mind with positive thoughts. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a great one to start with. Also treat your body well by eating healthy and being active. It helps you feel better all around.

8.    Hang around people who you aspire to be like – They say your personality turns into the 5 people you spend the most time with and we couldn’t agree more! If you have toxic friends who aren’t trying to do any better with their lives, you need to start hanging around people who lift you up and who inspire you to be a better person. The negative people in your life will only want to bring you down with them. Be selective with who you spend your time with and you’ll quickly start picking up some positive habits which will lift your spirit.

9.    Practice often – So much improvement can happen simply by practicing often! If you’re nervous about sharing or talking about your artwork to others, just start talking about it to everyone! We know it’s a scary thing but it’s the best way to get better at it. It does get easier once you make that leap.

Your success starts with your belief in yourself. Whatever you believe about yourself, you are right. So if you believe that you’ll never sell any of your artwork, you never will. But if you know in your heart that you were born for greatness and that you can make your dreams come true, you will be a huge success. With all the negativity in the world, it’s not an easy task but if you implement these 9 ways to believe in yourself and your artwork, you’ll get there and you can make incredible things happen.

How To Take The Best Fall Foliage Photos For Your Next Painting

By Nicole Tinkham

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Each season brings something new and exciting to spark your creativity and get some brilliant ideas flowing for your upcoming projects. Whenever you’re feeling stuck and just don’t know what to create next, turn to nature! With the changing seasons, there’s always something new to discover and try. We absolutely love the colors of fall and think this is the perfect time to get out there and be inspired. If you’re not a plein air artist, no problem! Here are 13 tips for taking the best fall foliage photos to help you with your next painting.

1.    Unique angles – Fall scenery photos have been done before, numerous times. They’re almost always brilliant but to mix it up a little try out different perspectives. Look up at the trees, get a close up, snap a photo from a distance, and just play around.

2.    Find color elsewhere (not in trees) – Gorgeous fall colors can be found in other areas besides trees. Think about the yellows and oranges reflecting in the water. You can still capture that color but in a unique way.

3.    Strategically scatter leaves for composition – Leaves fall randomly which we love! But if they just aren’t working for your photo, arrange them in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing.

4.    Look for a combination of colors – Don’t just focus on the oranges and yellows of the leaves. Also try to get in a nice blue sky for contrast or something else in the scenery that really stands out. Color is all around. Open your eyes to see the not so obvious.

5.    Look for cool effects – When a row of trees reflects in a body of water the effects can be really cool. If you spot this at just the right time (can’t have much wind!) snap a photo real quick.

6.    Scout out the perfect place – If you happen to be at the right place at the right time, perfect! But if you’re on a mission, don’t aimlessly drive around. Plan it out and know exactly where you want to go so you don’t waste your time blindly searching for the ideal location.

7.    Choose your time wisely – They say the best times to shoot are at dawn and sunset. At these times, the sunlight is at its warmest color so photos tend to come out really nice. But if your timing is off, don’t let that stop you. You can still capture amazing photos at other times in the day.

8.    Get the most of the whole season – There’s more than one type of scenery to capture in the fall. You have the moments when the trees are full, when leaves start to fall, when leaves pile up on the ground, and then when winter comes and the trees are bare. You have many opportunities to capture the different stages of fall.

9.    Slow down your shutter – This will help you capture movement in waterfalls and falling leaves.

10.    Tripods make life easier! You may want to invest in one to get the best scenery shots.

11.    Bring leaves home to play around with – The tricky thing with leaves is when they blow around out in nature. Instead of getting the job done there, grab some good ones and bring them back to the studio. You can arrange them and photograph them exactly how you want.

12.    Fall portraits – Get creative! There are so many fun ways to capture fall foliage in portraits.

13.    Other fall things – When we think fall, we typically think beautifully changing trees. However, there are other ways to portray the fall feeling. Think farmer’s markets and apple cider.

Don’t let this beautiful season pass you by! You don’t have to be a pro to get incredible photos, just follow these tips even if you’re working from your smartphone. Keep an eye out for interesting perspectives and beautiful colors. Even if you’re working on several paintings at the moment, it doesn’t hurt to snap a few photos to have for later use, like in the middle of winter when you don’t want to leave the house.

Tell us, have you taken any breathtaking fall foliage photos yet this year? We’d love to hear how they’ve helped you with your painting projects!

21 Unique Fall Craft Ideas That Aren’t Wreaths

By Nicole Tinkham

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While we absolutely love a beautiful fall wreath, we feel like it’s the typical craft to do this time of year. Plus once you have made a wreath, you usually don’t need another unless you’re giving it away to someone else. Regardless, we wanted to bring to you a list (of 21 to be exact) of different ways you can get crafty this fall season doing something other than the usual wreaths.

1.    Mason Jar Crafts

There is so much you can do with mason jars from food storage to decorating. They are an inexpensive way to decorate your home for the holidays and we love these super easy ideas!

•    Paint them in fun fall colors and use them as vases for autumn flowers.

•    Mod Podge some fake leaves around the outside and put a small candle inside the jar.

•    Turn them into something useful like utensil holders for your Thanksgiving dinner or a pencil cup (for writing all the things you’re thankful for). Simply paint the outside of the jar in fall colors and you can even paint a saying like “Give Thanks” to make it more festive.

•    We love Fairy Lights used in mason jars and you can get creative with what else you put in there too.

•    Fill them up with something colorful like candy corn or corn kernels.

•    A pretty autumn ribbon may be all you need. Just tie it around the top of the jar and put a small candle inside.

2.    Fun with leaves

When we think autumn, we think LEAVES! And lots of them depending on where you live. Here are some of our favorite ways to use them in crafts.

•    Wall art – You don’t even have to be an artist to pull this one off! Grab a canvas, lay some leaves on top in an eye pleasing composition, and spray paint over the entire canvas. When the leaves are removed, it will leave the silhouette of the leaves.

•    Create a fall banner with found leaves in your backyard. Use a string, clothes pins, and the best leaves you can find. Hint: These look really nice hung on the mantel.

•    Leaf prints – Find fun shaped leaves, paint one side with acrylic paint in fall colors, and press it onto a sheet of paper. You can then put the print in a frame and hang it up as your fall decorations.

•    Paint leaves – Gather a bunch of leaves from your backyard and get creative with them. You can paint dots, lines, or whatever you want. You can even use an ultrafine Sharpie and doodle right on them. These would make a great centerpiece if you put them all in a basket.

•    Easy leaf stained glass – Grab a nice variety of different leaves, place them on a piece of wax paper (arranging them how you want on half the sheet), fold the other half of the wax paper over the leaves, and placing a towel over top, iron over the project until the paper sticks. You can then create a frame with construction paper and hang the final piece in your window.

3.    Card Making

It doesn’t have to be Christmas to send out gifts and cards! In fact, shouldn’t we focus on giving thanks more so this month than any other? Don’t just go out and buy a card though. Get creative and make your own! Here are a few of our best tips when it comes to card making:

•    Keep an eye out for the perfect paper. Looks for color, texture, and patterns that speak to you.

•    Work in layers of paper cutouts for added dimension.

•    Start a collection of rubber art stamps. You really can’t have too many!

•    Be personable – really think about what the recipient would appreciate.

•    Think outside the box. Not all cards have to be a specific size or shape.

•    Embellish like crazy and just have fun with it.

4.    Fall pumpkins

Pumpkin decorating is not just for Halloween! You can do fun pumpkin crafts all autumn long. Here are a few of our favorite ideas.

•    Dress it up with ribbons and fall flowers.

•    Write your favorite fall messages on the pumpkin with Sharpie. This works really well on a white pumpkin.

•    Drill holes in the pumpkin forming an interesting pattern and put a candle inside. This allows you to carve the pumpkin without the Halloween vibe.

•    Throw some glitter on them! Simply paint on Mod Podge and stick on some glitter.

We see so many people interested in getting crafty around the fall season and we love it! Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, we wanted to stress giving. When you’re doing these projects, think about making them for someone else. Once you get into the giving spirit, you’ll want to keep on giving throughout the winter holidays as well.

Tell us, what do you plan to make and give away this fall?