Constraining Your Art to Further Your Growth

Watercolor started as just a convenience for me. I was chair bound due to undiagnosed hip pain and getting up to wash the acrylic paint off my brush wasn’t an easy option. 

At the time, everyone else in the world seemed to be outside taking walks, but I was stuck inside. I began scrolling through my phone for pictures of places I wanted to be. Most of them were beautiful scenes all over my lovely home state of Minnesota. I began drawing, enjoying the details a neat pen line can create, then filled in those drawings with my college set of watercolors I found in a drawer. 

Going back in time a bit further I found myself in college getting my Bachelor of Arts degree in K-12 Visual Arts Education. I enjoyed a wonderful study abroad trip to Spain to finish my Spanish minor, and I carried a small sketchbook to create pen drawings of places I went. My final year of college I completed my senior thesis by painting objects from art classrooms in the style of Trompe L'oeil, which means “to fool the eye”, a hyper realistic style. It was so fun to see people react to these familiar and nostalgic objects from their elementary days. 

I mention all those things because they, and the rest of my life of course, all led me to where I am today. 

Hi, I’m Alyssa Whetstone, an artist and art teacher. During the school year I teach elementary art students in grades K-5. We get messy, have fun, and learn to turn mistakes into masterpieces. Year-round I live my life as an artist, more full time in the summer, but still in the evenings and weekends during the school year. 

My current art is a combination of pen and watercolor. It’s fairly illustrative and yet realistic. I usually want my images to be recognizable, but I also work small so I have to leave out details I simply can’t fit on the paper. 

I think one of the most valuable things I’ve done as an artist is limit myself. I know that sounds counter productive, but hear me out. I figure out what’s most important to me, such as realism, then I add constraints such as limiting my medium and the size of my paper. Currently the largest I work is an 8x10, unless I’m commissioned to do something larger. Most often I paint on 5x7 paper. 

This size constraint ensures I don’t burn out on too many details since I don't have the space to include them. 

My medium constraint allows me to keep my art space ready to use. I have my acrylic paints but they’re hidden away and my watercolor is ready to grab and go. When I don’t have to think much, I’m more likely to start painting. 

Am I even making sense? Does it matter?

The great thing about being an artist is every artist’s journey is unique. You will find what is best for you, maybe by thinking and planning, maybe by trial and error. 

Either way, keep making art. 

Want to see or hear more about my work? Let’s connect.

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