We all have an imagination. But, it takes a special skill to hold an image in thought and turn that imagination into art.

©2016 Lori McNee, Summertime, 20x20, encaustic on cradled birch panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Summertime, 20×20, encaustic on cradled birch panel

Art-making can be a natural gift, a learned skill, or a combination of both. Making art is difficult and it takes perseverance, imagination, and discipline. Throughout the ages, even the most talented artists have had to work for years to improve and evolve their art-making skills.

I often get asked how I continue to find fresh ideas and inspiration for my paintings. Most often I am inspired by nature, color, light and shadow, patterns, and design. Sometimes I am inspired by another artist, or an abstract painting. Or, it might be an old Japanese screen or unique vessel that triggers my imagination.

I thought you might enjoy discovering how I turn my imagination into art.

Discover How To Turn Imagination into Art

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival is a popular Americana event in Idaho. In search of painting ideas, I followed the sheep with my camera and brought a lot of new inspiration back into my studio. Those inspired ideas led me to a concept which sparked my imagination!

The concept for a painting is an idea. For example, I had the idea of painting sheep. This idea was a thought of “sheep.” I used my sketches and photographs to refine my concept. But, the picture in my mind was the image, or my imagination. The next step was to turn my imagination into art!

Trailing of the Sheep Trailing of the Sheep

The finished piece is always a test of communication between one’s imagination and the execution. I am pleased with my finished oil painting, “Autumn Grazing.”  It is quite close to the picture I imagined in my head.

©2016 Lori McNee, Autumn Grazing, 30x40, oil on canvas
©2016 Lori McNee, Autumn Grazing, 30×40, oil on canvas

A few years ago, I was nervously pacing the halls of a hospital and happened upon this anonymous koi pond print. The peaceful imagery was a welcomed break from the stressful hospital waiting room.

(For your information, here are a few important posts about Copyright Law: Copyright Law, The Internet & You and Tips to Best Copyright & Protect Your Work)

Since then, I had been photographing koi ponds and waiting for inspiration to strike!
koi fish pond koi pond
A few years later, I was inspired and ready to paint the koi fish! I decided use encaustic wax to depict the koi paintings that were in my imagination. You can see how I used the reference materials to develop my concept. However, my own imagination was quite different than the original idea.

Encaustic wax is an exciting medium to use. It is difficult to control as it ebbs and flows in its molten state. The hot wax seems to have a mind of its own and I must willing to relinquish some control over my original concept. My imagination always expands when I work with encaustic wax.

For these paintings I used encaustic wax, pigments, India ink, alcohol inks, and a wet shellac burn to create the interesting textures.

©2016 Lori McNee, Serenity Pool,  30x30, encaustic on cradled birch panel
©2016 Lori McNee,  Serenity Pool,  30×30, encaustic on cradled birch panel
Detail of “Serenity Pool.”
©2016 Lori McNee, Lotus Pool, 24x36, encaustic on cradled birch panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Lotus Pool, 24×36, encaustic on cradled birch panel

The first time I saw the beautiful fresco works by the late, Marcia Meyers, I was intrigued. Inspired by the Color Field movement, Marcia’s oversized works harken back to the crumbling antique walls of the Old World. Color Field painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. Marcia’s paintings are a unique combination of old meets new.

Marcia Meyers marcia-meyers
Encaustic wax lends itself to creating wonderful depth, textures and organic colors. In my ‘window series’ I wanted to emulate the feeling of peering out an old window surrounded by fresco walls.

©2016 Lori McNee, Sunset Vignette, 24x36, encaustic on cradled birch panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Sunset Vignette, 24×36, encaustic on cradled birch panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Sunset Vignette, 24x36, encaustic (detail)
Detail from “Sunset Vignette.”
©2016 Lori McNee,<strong> Winter Chill,</strong> 12x9, encaustic
©2016 Lori McNee, Winter Chill, 12×9, encaustic
©2016 Lori McNee, <strong>Winter's Warmth,</strong> 12x12, encaustic
©2016 Lori McNee, Winter’s Warmth, 12×12, encaustic

I have always found inspiration from beautiful, old Asian screens, woodblock prints, Ink Wash  and Sumi-e painting. Their timeless designs still translate into fresh, contemporary ideas for me!
Ohara Koson swallows and cherry blossoms Japanese waxwing pring
Both my paintings, Winter Waxwings and Spring at Last are reminiscent of the above antique prints.

©2016 Lori McNee, Winter Waxwings, 24x48, wax and oil on panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Winter Waxwings, 24×48, wax and oil on panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Spring at Last, 48x24, encaustic on cradled birch panel
©2016 Lori McNee, Spring at Last, 48×24, encaustic on cradled birch panel

I could keep going! I hope this post inspires and helps you discover how to turn your own imagination into art!

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