As with anything you want to learn to do, drawing and painting require time spent practicing and honing your skills. To do it well, it helps to focus your time on one type of media or subject matter. So how do you know what you should focus on? How do you find your niche in art?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. It seems my interests are many and at times, scattered. This makes things difficult for me right now, as my free time to paint is very limited.

I’m a list-maker, so again I pull out my pen and notebook and make some lists. On my first list, I write down what I know I don’t really enjoy painting. That’s not to say I can’t do it, I just don’t really enjoy it. On my list are buildings. Many people like drawings/line renderings or paintings of their homes, but I just don’t enjoy that kind of work. Since I tell my students that art should be fun and creating a joy, I tend to shy away from architectural painting projects.

On my second list, I write down what I do enjoy drawing: people and animals. I enjoy painting landscapes as well. But what type of media should I work with? Here your budget and lifestyle will come into consideration.

The least expensive media is, of course, graphite. To draw all you really need is paper and a pencil. Quality pastels, on the other hand, range from $30.00 or more for a set of fifteen. Although I love the look and effect of oils, I would try them again at this time; they are slow to dry and are more difficult to clean up. With four children about, watercolors would be more my paint of choice, as it is very easy to stop and start again if interrupted.

Also, when choosing a type of media, consider the work of other artists that you enjoy looking at. What did they use to achieve those effects? What is it about the style that draws you to the picture? If you enjoy looking at it, you’d probably enjoy creating something in that same manner.

Of course, to find your niche you also need to try different things. Experiment with graphite, charcoal, pastels, acrylics, watercolor, or oils – you’ll find what you enjoy.

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BOOK REVIEW: Painting Animals that Touch the Heart by Lesley Harrison

I love looking through painting and drawing books. If you don’t have the time or financial resources to take art classes, these books can be both helpful and inspirational. I first came across Painting Animals that Touch the Heart on, and then I found it at my local library. Now I’m ready to purchase one! This book is full of pastel paintings of animals by Lesley Harrison, and they are beautiful! Some of them are so realistic it’s hard to believe they are not photographs. She uses soft pastels, hard pastels, pastel pencils, and velour paper. After looking through the book, I’m ready to purchase some more supplies and follow her tips – this book is highly recommended!

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Oil pastel look and feel like crayons, but the results are not the same at all. Not only can you blend the colors together, but if you apply a little bit of pressure you’ll find your colors are vibrant and exciting – an effect you’d never be able to achieve with crayons. When starting with oil pastels, I usually have my students create a still life – a basket of flowers, a boot, a pitcher and some fruit. These subjects produce pleasing results in oil pastels, as do landscapes with bright colors. Student quality pastels are very affordable – I priced them recently at our local craft store for 50+ colors for about ten dollars.

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Easter is a week away, so here’s an easy and fun craft for the kids to help celebrate the holiday: Easter Egg Mosaic Cards As you dye your Easter eggs this year, be sure to dye the cracked ones too. As you peel the colored shells away, set them aside for this craft. Here’s what you’ll need:

• Broken pieces of colored egg shells

• School Glue (such as Elmer’s)

• Q-tips or cotton balls

• Construction paper, card stock, or poster board

• Scissors

Cut your paper to the desired card size.

Fold the paper in half.

On the front of the card, draw a design that you will fill in with the egg shells. You might draw an egg, a flower, a butterfly, a heart, a fish – the possibilities are endless!

Make sure the egg shells are small enough to lay flat. If they aren’t small enough, use your fingers to break them into more pieces.

Using a Q-tip or cotton ball, spread the white glue on the part of your design where you plan to place the egg shells.

Now take the pieces of the egg shells and place them on the glue, colored side up. Continue until your design is filled in. Great job! Now let the glue dry and then send your card to your friend! Happy Easter!

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