Tagged Art workshop

The beauty of neutral

As the season and sunlight slips away, nature plays its visual tricks of on us. The chemistry of color takes hold and the natural world around us becomes neutralized. But we don’t really notice the loss of color though, because when neutral is played against itself, subtle becomes vibrant and all the negative descriptions of neutral dullness no longer make sense. Why is that?

When all colors grouped together are in the same relative clarity, the individual tonations in each show up.

Neutral on neutral; janebalshaw.com

Display a neutralized color against a fully saturated color and it will fade.  Interestingly, the brown above is the same brown as shown below.

Color on neutral; janebalshaw.com


Nature knows this trickery; in this season of brownish colors, berries are faded orange and those who turn truly crimson red only do so when they present in the pallete of intense winter contrast. Green leaves fade in autumn only because they fade transparent showing off the layers of singular colors always present, eventually loosing them to death and browning.


Autumn leaf color formula; janebalshaw.com

Another cause for thought; everything in its time, everything in its season…  Beauty is relative.

But what makes a color neutral? The dictionary defines it as “a color that does not alter its surroundings including our emotions.” From a painters point of view, neutral is a color that contains many pigments, technically called a complex color unlike color-wheel colors that only contain 2 pigments.

rusty truck color formula; janebalshaw.com

dried leaves color formula; janebalshaw.com

As an artist I have found this study of neutral to be endlessly fascinating.   Which pigment goes into a color in turn decides what other colors look great next to it.  What is the perfect beige to paint the wall behind your new burgundy sofa, which off-white is best to set into your quilt block and which shade of nude lipstick is best on your complexion.  Once you understand neutral then the world of color opens up.

I am teaching a class on this subject at the end of October this year 2017.  Follow this link to my workshop page to read more about it.

Neutrals; janebalshaw.com

Is being artistic genetic?


In my humble career as a visual artist and colorist, I continually hear the reluctant statement from others longing to pursue some form of art, “But I am not creative like you.” That statement begs the question, is being creative-artistic genetic, or is it a learned discipline just any other activity?

A lot has been said about creativity sighting the neuron pathways in the brain that make an artistic temperament, explaining logical vs. intuitive approaches, left brain, right brain and so on…. All of that seems to be true, it makes sense and would reinforce the genetic component. However, I personally observe that attitude and social influence seems to have more impact on the artistic process than any genetic proclivity.  So it seems to me that…

…self confidence and the willingness to loose control allows one to give over to the creative process.

I believe that being creative-artistic does not mean that the end result is a sale-able piece of work but instead is an inspired process that may or may not produce and end result.  Using my own family as an example, I come from a long line of artists that produced many end results. Some of us were trained to be professional artists, others just dove in like myself. Some of the resulting work was acclaimed, some of it so-so but some of it was invisible being simply the artistic-creative process played out in everyday life.

If “good” art is measured by it’s end result, then some of us would not have been considered talented but all of us would be considered creative as that process poured over into all aspects of life. As my predecessors did, I grew up observing that free-form thinking leads to intuitive decision-making which sparks original creativity. Society supported that for me growing up in the unrestricted 1960’s and 70’s while I watched my parents battle their own urges caught between their formative 1950‘s Beatnik years and their perceived need to be “in control & fit” in suburbia rendering them barely comfortable where they fit and creativity was often stifled. Some of their struggles imprinted me resulting in often times my own repressed creativity.

My maternal Victorian great-Grandmother Nellie. She painted small water-color still-life’s. They were good. Who knows if she would have done more but the Victorian society dictated that women confine their artistic talents to parlor entertainment. Nellie Randolph_0002

My paternal great-grandmother Zena. She was a model and daringly modeled men’s clothes! Sadly she died at a very early age so I never knew her.  I always wonder…Zena

My free-spirited maternal grandfather Albert (AJ) Randolph in the roaring 1920s. Navy man, adventurer and finally self-employed artist. He was a sign painter, sculptor and photographer. His parents were entrepreneurs so given his formative years of thinking outside the box and the “roaring” part of the 1920’s it makes sense that he would feel more freedom to pursue creative and artistic endeavours.Nellie Randolph

My maternal grandmother Bernice LeMoine Randolph also was a water-colorist. There is very little of her painted work left to show but she also expressed creativity through massive colorful gardens sculpted carefully with hard scape.Bernice Randolph

AJ and Bernice’s children were also artists.

My mother Flora Jane worked for the US navy doing illustrations and air-brush retouch work (pre-Photoshop). She liked to tell how she worked right next to the men that would become the first Walt Disney artists. When she left the navy she had a glamorous career retouching print ads for the San Francisco Union Square department stores like Sacks. She gave it up to become a mother and suburban housewife but later returned to it as well as pursuing chinese brush and oil painting.  During her absence from making finished art, she filled our home with loads of boot-strappy creative touches; decoratively painted furniture & artistic arrangements of found objects with out-of-the-box color schemes.Flora Jane 1945 Navy

FJ’s sister, my aunt Nell, had perhaps the most successful & prolific art career of anyone in our family. Internationally known and making art everyday of her life, she choose a bohemian unencumbered lifestyle which I believe helped her have the freedom to express herself completely. My sister Nina maintains a website of Nell’s work with some limited-addition prints still available for sale.Nells-web-pic-259x300BasketFlowers1

FJ’s husband Bob, my father, also worked in the arts. He was a professional photographer, a print maker and lithographer. When he was doing this work, it was all done by hand without the aid of a computer using one’s own eye for judging artistic balance. His father was rather repressing and stern so maybe this was some of his hesitation when I was growing up. But maybe something was observed from his seemingly creative mother Zena that allowed him to pursue some arts.Young Bob Gorman

And the next generation down – my sister, myself and my cousin John – all have expressed ourselves creatively. John (observing his mother Nell’s lifestyle) was a graphic artist, fine artist, musician, chef and oozed creativity. My sister is a photographer, cartoonist, gardener and fabulous cook and of course there is me. And my children are jewelers, painters, musicians, writers, poets and highly intuitive as I have tried to provide them with an upbringing that encouraged their urges.

Certainly being creative-artistic has to do with self-expression and the confidence to do so.

So, is being artistic genetic? Or is it environmental? What do you think?

If you are interested in exercising your creativity, you might find my upcoming workshop interesting as I will address the process of getting into your creativity.

Additional resources:

Beth Frede at Creative Revelations coaches people on how to express themselves.

A new book which I hope to read soon…“The Confidence Code” by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.