I am an Artist: Breaking The Chains of Fear and Self Doubt

I have always had a love for art. Museums were far more enjoyable for me than most of my peers. A beautiful photograph or painting made me want to just stop and stare. I never created though. I was not an artist.


An Unintended Art Lesson

When I was in Kindergarten my teacher had taken a picture of a monkey and colored it three times. One just had scribbling all over the page, one was in the lines, but colored in all different directions with white patches showing, the third was carefully and neatly colored inside the lines. She pulled out three ribbons and had us rank the pictures in order 1st, 2nd and 3rd based on how well they were colored. Clearly her intent was to teach us about 1st, 2nd, 3rd, but I learned a much bigger, and ultimately quite damaging, lesson that day.

What this innocently intentioned lesson taught my 5 year old impressionable brain was that people were judging my art work, being the best is very important, and you better color inside the lines. Pretty soon I decided I wasn’t an artist and didn’t like art. I wasn’t automatically as good as that 1st place picture and I didn’t have the maturity to understand that it took time, patience, and hard work to get there. I just knew I didn’t want that 3rd place ribbon! I didn’t think it out quite so clearly at that age, but I realize now that I had decided I would rather be known as not trying than try my best and be found lacking.

This one small moment in my education has carried lifelong consequences. I have spent 32 years denying my own desire to create. I have avoided learning about different artistic mediums and techniques. I have labeled myself as “not good” at art and never really gave myself a chance to do it. My artistic self has tried to break free of the chains I placed around it, but never really succeeded in more than maybe stretching the chain a bit.

Learning to Test My Artistic Limits

Around 2006 I started dabbling in digital scrapbooking. My mom and sister were both enthusiastic paper scrappers, but I never really got into it because I was no good at art. I decided that I could be an artist on the computer because if I made mistakes I could just undo and start over. This was my first baby step towards letting my creative self really flourish. In 2008 I decided that I liked the digiscrapping enough that Digital Design would be a good option for using my GI Bill to pursue a Bachelor’s degree.  I really enjoyed making T-shirts, word art, and logos, but it still wasn’t completely fulfilling my need to create.

My next step was photography. I didn’t have to actually create anything, I thought, I just had to creatively capture what God had already created all around me. I read “Understanding Exposure” to learn all about manual settings so I could capture what my eye saw. This was much more fulfilling, but there was still a hole. I then read “The Photographer’s Eye” which is all about the artistic principles you can use to improve your photo composition. As I was reading about these basic artistic principles I began to feel those old stirrings of “I wish I was a good artist”, but once again told myself that wasn’t something I could do.

How I Destroyed the Chains My Artistic Self was Bound With

First, I had the opportunity to attend a CreativeLive workshop in person called “The Creative Newborn Studio” taught by Julia Kelleher. During the class Julia gave us each a dish of multicolored clay and told us to create something. While we were working she spoke about becoming as a child again and just creating without any fear of what others thought. As I sat and molded that clay I finally released the chains that had held me bound for so long and just made something fun. I was sitting there playing with clay as aI listened for over an hour. Also as part of the class Julia discussed the Corel Painter software and how it could be used to turn photographs into paintings. When I returned home from the class I purchased the software and have completely fallen in love. I have also learned how to do a lot of painting techniques in Photoshop. In fact the main images of my branding were all created by me using these programs!

Digital painting | Corel Painter | graphic design | artist

The second opportunity I had was completing some business coaching with Jeff Jochum. I had first heard Jeff speak during another CreativeLive class. Jeff is all about specialism, creating a business around who you are, not just what you sell. His course included a lot of soul searching and defining who I was at the core. It was really hard work! I had to be brutally honest with myself. At that point in my life I wasn’t living true to my true nature, needs, and desires. There were a LOT of tears shed as I began peeling away the layers that I hid under and really got to know my real self. One thing I had to face was that I had an unfulfilled desire for creativity that really needed to be set free.

The third event occurred when I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Vivid and Brave, about the art of Zentangle. I have always loved this type of art but it seemed way above my ability level. This time I decided that I would give it a try. I searched out a few patterns on the internet to learn, grabbed a ball point pen and just began to draw. I got lost in the process and it was amazing!  I have now purchased pens, shading pencils, and colored pencils so I can continue to learn this art. Once I have those down I am planning to learn watercolor techniques. I finally overcame that last little hurdle of fear and just allowed myself to create, by hand, on paper, with no undo button. This has led me to experimenting with calligraphy and hand lettering as well as continuing to refine my digital art skills by applying what I learn as I work with paper.

Event four was coaching with Christine Tremoulet who wrote the best selling book “Blogging Brilliantly for Your Business” and just happens to also be behind the Vivid and Bave website. I have long admired her and first rubbed shoulders with her when doing my coaching with Jeff. When she offered me a seat in her new “Business Brilliantly” class I jumped at the chance, and got far more than I expected. Christine helped me define exactly what I wanted to achieve in life, not just my business, but how was I going to be unapologetically me and use my strengths to change the world! It was because of her that I was able to completely change gears away from being a professional photographer and into blogging and direct sales. She is the one that helped me create a mission statement for my life. You can now find her and her classes at The Life Boss.

In the past when people asked me what I did I said “I’m a stay at home mom and I sometimes make a little money on the side doing graphic design and photography.” Now my vision is so much clearer. I know who I am. I have stopped worrying about that little blue 1st place ribbon and instead am learning to be true to my inner voice and embrace my unique creativity. Now I can say-

I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, art, and fashion

I would love it if you wanted to check out some of my work. You can see my art at Fine Art America or request a custom piece via my Etsy shop. If you are interested in my fashion info check out my LuLaRoe and Paparazzi Facebook pages, my LuLaRoe VIP group and my Paparazzi shopping page.

Now I want to ask you, what is fear holding you back from? What are you going to do today to fight back against that fear and let your true inner self shine?

Watercolor and Oil Pet Portrait Paintings Now Available

I am excited to announce that I am now offering pet portraits in my Etsy shop. These portraits will be offered at $65, but right now are being offered at the special introductory price of only $45! Get yours now, because this deal won’t last long.

Watercolor pet portrait| Smithsquad.com | Digital Painting | Digital art | Watercolor art
Watercolor style

This beautiful digitally hand painted art is the perfect way to display portraits of your pet in your home. It can also be used as a spectacularly unique holiday card, birthday gift, anniversary gift or to celebrate any other special occasion.

Each pet portrait is hand painted by me using Corel Painter and Photoshop. Using your reference photo I carefully choose my colors, brush types, and strokes to create a traditional painting with digital media. Your portrait is then sent to you as a high resolution JPEG with a full release for printing with your favorite company. These are beautiful as framed prints or gallery wrapped canvases. They can also be very stunning on the new metal style prints.

Watercolor pet portrait| Smithsquad.com | Digital Painting | Digital art | Watercolor art
Oil Style

The price listed is for up to two subjects. Additional subjects can be added at a rate of $25 per subject. If you would like to add subjects please message me so that I can create a custom listing for you.

This item is made to order – Please allow for a turnaround time of 2-4 weeks.
If you need it sooner, contact me first about rush order availability and I will see what I can do to help you!!

Watercolor pet portrait| Smithsquad.com | Digital Painting | Digital art | Watercolor art
Oil Style

~~~How This Works~~~

Step 1: Purchase the listing on Etsy or email/message me directly

Step 2: Upon purchase, send your desired reference photo to emily@Smithsquad.com. Clear photos with good lighting are important.

Step 3: I begin painting! You will receive a small reference file to approve before finalizing the image and I will do up to 2 rounds of revisions. Additional rounds of revisions can be requested at a rate of $25 per round.

Step 4: After I get your final approval, I will send the image to you as a high resolution JPEG along with a full print release.

Watercolor pet portrait| Smithsquad.com | Digital Painting | Digital art | Watercolor art
Oil Style

Are you ready to get started? Check out my Etsy shop now or send me a message!

Would you like to win a free pet portrait? comment below with your pets name(s) and why you love them. I will choose a winner on Tuesday August 16. 

Behind the Scenes- Digital Painting in Corel

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I absolutely love digital painting with Corel Painter. When paired with my Wacom Tablet it is about as close to traditional painting methods as you can possibly get on a computer. I’ve found that with all the apps and filters out there available for turning a photo into a painting most people don’t understand what it is I do to create my custom digitally painted portraits. Here is a little behind the scenes rundown of how I prepare an image in Photoshop and paint it in Corel Painter.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes
The original photo I started with

The first step is to take the image into Photoshop and tweak the colors. One big key to making a painting look realistic is adding contrast to the image by making the brights brighter and the darks darker. I also will sometimes change the color tone depending on what look I am going for. For many of my oil portraits I like to add a warm golden brown tone to the image. I will sometimes add a light canvas texture as well. If I need to composite the subject onto a different background I also do this in Photoshop first before taking the image into Corel.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes
After Photoshop edits

I then open up my image in Corel Painter and make sure the paper I want to paint on is selected. I usually choose “Artists Canvas”. If I am going for a lighter look or planning to print on fine art paper instead of canvas then I will choose the “Soft Press Watercolor”. The paper only interacts with certain bushes. when you paint with those brushes they will pick up the texture of the paper that you choose adding texture and dimension to the finished painting.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the ScenesCustom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

Once I have my paper set I then quick clone my image. What this does is place an additional blank canvas layer over my image. It allows me to pick up the colors from my photo and pull them through to the canvas rather than having to mix my own colors in the color picker. When you quick clone the top layer is automatically set to 50% opacity so that you can see your image underneath. At this point I select the smeary round oil brush in a largish diameter and start painting in rough strokes to set the boundaries of my image. Once I’ve got some broad strokes of color laid in I turn the top layer to 100% opacity. I then make my brush smaller and start painting in details.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

I always zoom in and start with the eyes. These are the soul of any portrait and I want them to speak to the viewer. Of course they never are from the get go and I always go back to them at the end as well to make the absolutely perfect. When painting in the details it is important to follow the lines of the face and the way the light moves. You don’t want to paint in lines that are perpendicular to the shape of the jaw or move across an eye smearing your paint. It is just like working with real oils on real canvas, minus the drying time and adding in a LOVELY undo button!

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.36.05 AM

Once I have the face details pretty well laid in I will zoom out and begin on the clothing and hair. For these I use the smeary flat brush as it adds a bit more texture to my strokes. This is where the tilt and pressure sensitivity of the Wacom tablet really comes into play. As I tip and rotate my pen, just like I would a traditional oil brush, I can change the direction and thickness of my strokes. The pressure I apply to the pen affects the width of the stroke just as pressing a paint brush flatter on your canvas affects the stroke. It really is impossible to get the variation needed for a quality digital painting with a regular mouse or inexpensive artist tablet that does not have tilt sensitivity.

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Just as with the face it is important to follow the curves of the hair and the way the light moves on the clothing. You also want to make sure to vary the width of your brush to accommodate for smaller and larger areas and add variety to the strokes. I also vary the feature of my brush (a setting that determines how close together the bristles are) to add definition to the hair.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

Once I have completed painting in all my oils the final step is to add some definition to the colors and add texture. I use the square chalk to do this. The chalks are one of the sets of brushes that will pick up the texture from the paper. I will zoom in on areas where there are contrasting swathes of color (for example the lips or the whites of the eyes) and use my eyedropper to select a color. I will then enhance that color a smidge in the color picker; making it more saturated or lighter/darker. I then will carefully apply the color with a light hand around the edges of that color zone. This adds texture to the color as well as more clearly defining the line between two different sections of color. I will also use the chalk at large sizes to pick up colors from the background and dab them around for extra texture as well as to more smoothly blend the background colors together.

For the very final touch on some images I will add a texture overlay in Corel or in Photoshop. I don’t do this to every image and the choice on whether to do it and what texture to use is highly influenced by how the image will be displayed. If I am going to share on the web I will add the canvas texture to show how it will look when printed, but when actually printing to the canvas it does not require the texture to be added. Sometimes for a more rustic look I will add a paint strokes or scratches texture in Corel. There are so many options I usually experiment with several before settling on a final look.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

And there you have it. All told these paintings take several hour and usually are completed over a period of many days. I like to walk away from an image and come back a day later to see if I still love it or if it needs more tweaking. Sometimes I get frustrated with a certain painting not coming together the way I want and have to walk away for a few hours or even a few days to reset my brain and get back to work.

As you can see these custom works of art go far beyond adding a simple Photoshop texture or running through a computer program. I spend time and effort perfecting the details and painting each image by hand, just as I would with real oil paints on a real canvas. And just for fun, here are a few examples of running this photo through some of those programs/filters so you can see the difference.

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I would love to create a custom digital painting for you. You can contact me using the link in the menu for a custom quote or simply jump on over to my Etsy shop to place an order. If you’d like to take a look at my completed paintings to order a print of your favorite you can see them all on Fine Art America.

Do you do any digital painting? What are some of your favorite methods, brushes, papers, etc.? Would you like to learn more about digital painting? What kind of tutorials would you like to see me do in the future?

Mother’s Day Giveaway

Mother’s Day is only 6 weeks away on May 8th! Have you thought about what you are going to do to celebrate? Well let me help you out a little bit. I would like to give a few lucky winners my custom digitally painted portraits away as a beautiful Mother’s Day gift.

Each painting that I do is a custom work of art. You send me your favorite photo with up to two subjects in it and I will turn it into a painting using Corel Painter. I actually paint each stroke by hand with my Wacom Tablet, so this is just like getting a professional oil or watercolor portrait painted, without the added time of letting paint dry! There is also the added benefit of being given a digital file to print in the size and on the surface that you want as many times as you want. If you don’t want to take care of printing I am happy to do that as well, prices vary depending on size and surface printed on.

This is a photo I took of my daughter. Those beautiful eyes were just begging for a traditional oil painting style. The Prizes!

Grand Prize- (2) custom digital paintings, one for you and one for another mother in your life, delivered via digital download. You will have full rights to print or share/display as you see fit. Value- $325

Runner-up- 1 custom digital painting delivered via digital download. You will have full rights to print or share/display as you see fit. Value- $175

innocence|smithsquad.com|spiritual refugees|child of god|digital painting

There will be 1 grand prize winner and two runners up. I reserve the right to add additional winners at any time.

Don’t want to wait 3 weeks for the contest to end? Use code “ILOVEMOM” in my Etsy shop to save 15% on all orders! I have two listings; one for an oil style and one for a watercolor style . If the winner has already purchased a custom portrait they can choose to have their payment refunded or have an additional painting done.

cutom painted portrait giveaway|smithsquad.com|Mother's Day giveaway|Digital Painting

Please note that in order to guarantee delivery orders need to be submitted 2 weeks prior to the date needed. Most orders can be turned around in just a few days, but I require up to two weeks during peak demand.

Mother's Day Giveaway- win a custom digitally painted portrait|smithsquad.com|digital painting |Corel Painter


Enter Now!

Enter your email in the widget below for your required first entry. After that a few different optional choices for additional entries will pop up.

The contest will end on April 25th, so share share share and get your entries in!

[contestfriend contest=”855″]

Commissioned Portraits

One beautiful way to take your family photos to the next level is to commission a painted portrait. Throughout the ages people have commissioned portraits of important people in their lives. Painted portraits are a beautiful piece of art that can elegantly grace your walls for generations. Image the pride your child will feel every time they walk past this beautiful image on your wall. They will have no doubt how important they are in your life.

Custom digitally painted portrait comission|emilyjartist.com|corel Painter|Oil Painting

I create portrait commissions in two different styles. First is a traditional oil painting. These are best displayed printed on a museum quality canvas. They can be gallery wrapped, but look especially stunning when paired with a high quality frame.

cusotm painted watercolor portrait|emilyjartist.com|digital painting|watercolor|mother and baby|newborn

I also love to create beautiful watercolor images. The softness of a newborn baby is so perfectly captured with this airy and light style. These are lovely as a traditional print with linen texture. They are amazing when printed on fine art paper with a deckle edge and float mounted in a matching frame.

watercolor flower bouquet custom painting|emilyjartist.com|corel painter|Photoshop|digital painting

People aren’t the only things that I paint. You can commission a portrait of a pet or important object like a bouquet.  rooster custom digital painting| emilyjartist.com|corel painter|Photoshop|digital painting

Commissioning a digital painting is simple! Just email me at emily@emilyjphoto.com with the image you would like to have painted as well as what display methods and sizes you are interested in. From there I can work up a custom quote. Prices start at $250 for an 8×10 canvas or print.