Who are you? Take time to look around đź‘“

Barb Toland Creative Sparks

I hope this finds you having some fall fun.

Although here in the southern US we are still burgeoning under the heat of summer, I have high hopes that those beautiful autumn days are just around the corner! Autumn makes me all #happydance :)

Most of us have our favorite time of year, what's yours? Whatever it is, embrace it ... because it's authentically & completely you.

When you begin to stand firmly planted in who you are & what you love, without being tossed around by other people's passions & opinions, then YOUR unique tastes start to be coaxed out of hiding, and that creative heart of yours begins to get sparked.

THIS is how one becomes passionate, not by words or thoughts alone, but by following your one-of-a-kind, unique inner path that only you can discover -- thorns & all lol.

The question you should be asking when you come across a work of art, or just something in your wonderings is, "Do I like that?" And if you do, then great ... be inspired by it! Not so much? Then move on & keep looking.

At any rate, let's push on to the topic of this week's blog -- becoming more aware of those things around us that make us come alive, and embracing them.

And since fall is my most favorite time of the year, we'll kick things off by talking a little about a painting I did of a fall leaf, one of my most favorite things about the season...

Leaf Shadow ©
14.5" x 18"
on 300 lb. cotton rag paper


I was out walking one day doing one of my favorite activities, collecting fall leaves. I really liked this leaf in particular, so I took it home and after a few days of drying, it had drawn up into what I thought was a really cool 3D shape.

I'm fascinated with shadows, so I started playing a bit with a flashlight, shining it across the leaf from different angles, casting lots of unique shadows.

I finally landed on one image in particular. I loved its simplicity, the huge negative space surrounding it, and the long, drawn out shadow made by holding the flashlight at a low angle.

I thought this particular combination gave the composition a sense of stillness & tranquility, so that's the one I selected as a reference photo for the painting.

The main paint colors I used for the leaf itself are a combination of azo yellow & new gamboge. I varied the shade of colors across the surface to give it more depth & interest.

The red spots are alizarin crimson with a hint of the gamboge thrown in, and the shadow is french ultramarine + a bit of the alizarin crimson which gives it that cobalt vibe.

Since the blue-purple of the shadow, and the yellow-orange of the leaf are complimentary colors, the contrast between the two really makes the leaf pop off the canvas.


The background is a mixture of alizarin crimson, french ultramarine & new gamboge. These 3 complimentary colors when mixed together result in what would be considered a neutral beige or tan color.

While the background was still wet, I threw some salt on it to provide more texture. The salt is brushed off after it dries, leaving the visual texture on the canvas.

When I create something based on things that resonate with my creative heart, I know I have a much better shot at making it something special.

Speaking of special things, below are some of my most cherished possessions  that I've squirreled away on a shelf in my studio. I ponder them for inspiration every day. Each reminds me collectively of who I am, as many are from memories & past experiences that have in one way or another, molded my creative heart.

  • A shell worn into the shape of a rose I found while hiking at the beach on Christmas Day along the Gulf of Mexico.
  • One of two blue chalcedony hearts found in a gem shop while on our honeymoon -- yes, the hubster has the other one on his writing desk!
  • A ladybug discovered on my easel, with wings still open ... my sign that it was time for me to take flight.
  • A brush purchased at my beloved Sennelier shop in Paris, consisting of a single tiny woodcock feather.
  • A change purse purchased while in London, and now stuffed full of foreign coin,reminding me to be grateful of a rich & full life.
  • A porcelain dish with pennies collected from the places I've visited, again reminding me of all the good fortune I've had & continue to have.
  • A photo of the inscription on artist George Seurat's tombstone at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. This was a pilgrimage of sorts for me, as Seurat is one of my favorite artists. I was introduced to his work while taking my first art course in college. Seeing one of his paintings in person at the university for the first time took my breath away. The concept of using different colored dots to create a painting just blew my mind!
  • A leaf & feather that were lying on the ground near Seurat's mausoleum at Pere Lachaise.
Here's one of Seurat's painting, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte":

Love those dots!

So now it's your turn (although if you're reading between the lines, most of what I write here on the blog is about you & inspiring your creativity!) What do YOU love? What inspires you, helps you see your life in a more vivid & passsionate way?

Scroll down and take a minute to comment below. Or if you'd rather share a photo of something you love, you can upload it right in the comment box (similar to how you would add a photo on Facebook).

I would love to chat about art & creativity with you. Your artistic voice & heART matter to me ... always!

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