My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #262: Changing Gears

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 02-20-2011 02:38 PM 5047 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 261: More Preparation Part 262 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 263: Self-Indulgence »

Well, I suppose winter isn’t over yet. What started to be a sunny and relatively warm day yesterday turned overcast and cold. We even got another layer of snow. Nothing substantial though, just a reminder that we aren’t done with the cold weather quite yet. When I took my walk last night, the winds were swirling from all directions. The sky was mostly clear then, and even though there was light snow falling, you could see what seemed like thousands of stars in the sky. It wasn’t unpleasant at all.

I spent the morning doing customer correspondence, and finally after lunch I was able to sit down and get moving on painting the giant snowflake that I designed a couple of weeks ago. This project has been lurking in the corners of my mind ever since I drew up this design for another painting designer. It was one of those times when I had a vision of the finished project, but didn’t quite know how to get there. I must have looked at thousands of pictures over the past week and I just couldn’t seem to get started on it, for fear of screwing it up.

Finally, I took the proverbial bull by the horns yesterday morning and I cut four additional insert pieces of 1/8” Baltic birch plywood to give it a try. After all, if it didn’t come out how I wanted, I would then have lost really nothing. Even with doing that I was apprehensive about beginning.

What I wanted to paint on it was a Northern Lights scene with a dark and fiery sky and place a polar bear gazing up at the moon. The biggest challenge I saw was making the lights in the sky look illuminated by the lights. My plan is to make a painting pattern of this design and sell the snowflakes as a painting surface, so I need to accomplish the painting in a way where I can write clear and concise instructions so that other painters can accomplish it. But the first order of business was to accomplish it myself.

I paint so differently when I am doing so to teach or make into a pattern. When I am painting “just to paint”, I have the luxury of layering colors back and forth until things come out just how I want them to. I can spend days toning and adjusting things and not have to think twice about it. But when I paint to create a pattern that others can follow, I have to do things in an entirely different way. I have to be organized and present the design step-by-step so that others can understand and follow along. Although it is a given that each artist will put add in their own personality, I have to at least offer the basic building blocks so that they could accomplish the painting. It is a far step from designing my scroll saw patterns, where each step is exact.

But it is something that I love to do and I thought a change of gears right now was needed – even just for a little while. So I forged on and worked a while and got the background pretty much to what I had in mind.

From Northern Lights Polar Bear Snowflake

Now you have to realize that I just didn’t paint this on a whim. I had done the drawings over the past week and kind of mapped out what I wanted there. I had many different reference photographs of the Northern Lights sky and I just kind of came up with my own version of what I had imagined it to be. To get to this particular stage of the painting, it took a couple of hours.

I then drew up a basic polar bear. One of the joys of having my computer knowledge is that I was able to scan in the drawing and trace it into a vector file so that I could manipulate it to the size and location I felt it looked best. It kind of gives me a preview of how things will be before I touch the paint. I wound up finishing him to this point by the end of the evening.

From Northern Lights Polar Bear Snowflake

I still am debating whether he is too bright for the scene or not. I am not sure if I am thrilled with him or not. As I said, I am not really a great cartoonist and there is something about him that I am not entirely happy with, although I can’t put my finger on it. I find it would be very difficult to do a fully realistic animal at this size and I just don’t know about him. I may wind up giving him a wash with some of the dark prussian blue to tone him down a bit and make him fade into the scene a bit more. I still haven’t decided.

I took a picture with the sample piece sitting on the snowflake frame so you can see how he will wind up. I plan on painting the snowflake in the dark blue tones, as I think it will look different and dramatic.

From Northern Lights Polar Bear Snowflake

I am going to recreate this scene again today, this time taking more step by step photos which I am going to include in the pattern. I think I have a bit of a handle on how I accomplished this and hopefully I can do it again with similar results. Practice makes perfect and all of that.

Switching gears like this is good for me, I believe. It truly helps me from being complacent and having things fall too much into a routine. It has been a couple of years since I have done any serious painting and I want to gently get back into that form of creativity too. Painting for me though is so temperamental and I really need to be in a good state of mind to accomplish anything worth while. The sewing box was one of the first “nicer things” that I attempted designing of late and that along with the skating pond figures encouraged me to continue on in this direction. (By the way – I was over at Diana’s the other day and she was doing her needlework. I was happy to say that her sewing box was being used precisely how I intended it to be – to hold her thread and supplies for her current project. I couldn’t have been happier!)

It is funny how taking a break from woodworking designing can still include so much creativity. You wouldn’t think that it rests me or makes me feel as if I had a break, but it truly does. There are so man ways we can be creative and many times the different avenues we choose to take are different from what we are use to, yet overlap. While I paint, I also ponder the many ideas I have for scroll sawing designs. Usually by the time I am finished with one thing, I can’t wait to get to the next. It is this back and forth that makes things fun and keeps me fresh. I truly think the variety keeps me from getting stagnant.

From Northern Lights Polar Bear Snowflake

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

12 comments so far

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2945 days

#1 posted 02-20-2011 03:48 PM

Thank you Woody. I generally don’t sell my finished stuff – I give most of them away or keep a few pieces. I did have some prints made of my ‘big cats’ and a couple of other paintings that I offered for sale, and my develop that part of my business in the future. But as I said, I haven’t really painted seriously in a while. I love to paint as much as I love to do woodworking and would like to do both if I can. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4185 days

#2 posted 02-20-2011 04:03 PM

very impressive!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View NH_Hermit's profile


394 posts in 3121 days

#3 posted 02-20-2011 04:27 PM

Hang in there, kid. Spring’s coming! Just think how good you’ll feel on May Day. I never really appreciated May Day until I lived in northern New Hampshire and my first winter saw -42.

BTW, very nice!

-- John from Hampstead

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4004 days

#4 posted 02-20-2011 04:53 PM

Wow, Sheila..I had no idea you were such a talented painter.



-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3061 days

#5 posted 02-20-2011 06:10 PM

Thought this might go well with the Northern Lights Polar Bear

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2945 days

#6 posted 02-20-2011 06:18 PM

Thanks, Martyn! I really enjoy that. I love music of that nature – especially in the morning when I am writing. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3140 days

#7 posted 02-20-2011 06:22 PM

niiiceee night paint, it ain´t easy to make a night scene
I think the bear looking as nice as you and that is whats wrong
with him , tooo freindly, if he shuold be darker most be up to the painter

take care

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2905 days

#8 posted 02-20-2011 09:40 PM

Yes, very nice designs. It’s getting so we expect nothing less from you! Some folks got all the talent…! I’m a ‘stick-figure’ kind of guy…and jealous!

As for stars…I distinctly remember this catchphrase…

A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars—billions upon billions of stars.

—Carl Sagan, Cosmos, chapter 1, page 3

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View stevebuk's profile


57 posts in 2709 days

#9 posted 02-20-2011 11:06 PM

coming on a treat sheila, i love the idea about the northern lights, and if you need any help with painting lessons, you know where i am ,,LOL

ps, i would leave the polar bear light coloured.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3328 days

#10 posted 02-20-2011 11:42 PM

oh you nailed that one…that sure did my heart good to see that…the northern spirit lives within me and always will…....mountains…bears…...northern lights…...they all melt my heart…and your wonderful skills brought them all together for a beautiful painting…...keep at it…my friend from the north….....sorry that winter has not let go yet…but it will soon…..and you will be zippin down the road in that red mustang soon enough…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View dlmckirdy's profile


199 posts in 3158 days

#11 posted 02-21-2011 06:29 AM

Hi Shiela,

I think you are right about the prussian blue wash over the bear. With the moon in the background, the light would not illuminate the side of the bear we are seeing. It looks good with the light colored snowflake, but if you paint it blue, the bear should not be so bright.

Please bear (sic) in mind that I am no painter, just sometimes too reallistic.

Keep up the good work.

-- Doug, Bakersfield, CA - I measured twice, cut it twice, and it is still too short!

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2945 days

#12 posted 02-21-2011 01:28 PM

Thank you all again for your comments. I don’t know what I didn’t really like about the bear. He is kind of cute, but there was something that I didn’t feel comfortable with. Perhaps I am also like Doug and too much of a realist. I do think that I am going to give it a a go and wash him down with some shadows. My feelings were the same – if the moonlight is in the background, he should be back lit and not so bright.

I just need to be brave and do it. After all – its only a painting! :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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