My 2020 Workshop & Retreat Schedule

Is there someone on your holiday gift list who has everything? Instead of more STUFF, give them the experience of a creative Workshop or Retreat! Buy one for someone you love, buy one for yourself or both!

Is there someone on your holiday gift list who has everything? Instead of more STUFF, give them the experience of a creative Workshop or Retreat! Creative experiences make great gifts because they keep on giving for a lifetime. Buy one for someone you love, buy one for yourself or both!
Before choosing a Retreat or Workshop, please be sure to read my Workshop & Retreat Guide to find out if a Workshop or a Retreat experience (or both!) is the best choice for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about any of these Retreats or Workshops.

2020 Retreats

WILD RICE RETREAT: EXPLORING LANDSCAPE THROUGH ENCAUSTIC & THE MARK
Wild Rice Retreats combines food, wine, body self-care and gorgeous inspiring landscape to round out their creative expression retreats. Please visit the workshop link below to read more about Wild Rice, view their lovely photo gallery and to find out more about my class.
**SIGN UP FOR THIS RETREAT DURING THE MONTH OF DECEMBER AND RECEIVE $100 OFF PLUS A BOTTLE OF WINE!**
July 12-16
Wild Rice Retreat, Bayfield, WI
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION
See this post and this post for Retreat Highlights and Student work made in Retreats similar to this one.

IRELAND ARTIST RETREAT: MIXED MEDIA ENCAUSTIC
Created by and for encaustic artists, the Essence of Mulranny Retreats offer state of the art facilities, sweeping coastal and mountain views and miles of inspiring Irish landscape make this retreat a once in a lifetime experience you will draw inspiration from for years. Please visit the links below for Retreat details and photo gallery.
August 1-8
Essence of Muranny, Mulranny, Ireland
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION
See this post and this gallery for Retreat Highlights and Student work made in Retreats similar to this one.

VERMONT ARTIST RETREAT: EXPLORING LANDSCAPE & THE FIGURE THROUGH PHOTO ENCAUSTIC
I have teamed up with photo encaustic artist, Leah MacDonald to teach this once in a lifetime Retreat in rural Vermont. Lareau Farm Retreat offers comfortable country accommodations, farm to table meals, miles of hiking through meadow, forest, mountain and swimming in the Mad River. Leah and I have planned a wonderful five days photographing the figure and expressing the landscape as well as a few fun local excursions. Please visit the link below for photo galleries and a detailed Retreat description and itinerary.
August 17-28
Lareau Farm Retreat, Waitsfield, VT
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION

NOLA ARTIST RETREAT: A HISTORIC CEMETERY EXPLORATION THROUGH MIXED MEDIA ENCAUSTIC
A truly unique experience not to be duplicated, I have teamed up with New Orleans based artist and historian, Heather Veneziano to offer an immersive creative exploration of New Orleans extraordinary cemeteries. In addition to cemetery excursions and ample studio time, Heather and I have planned several fun food and creative excursions to New Orleans lesser known inspiring spaces and resources. Please visit the link below for a detailed Retreat description, itinerary and photo gallery.
November 9-13
Paper Machine Studio, New Orleans, LA
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION

2020 Workshops

MIXED MEDIA ENCAUSTIC COLLAGE
April 18-19
Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, NJ
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION
See this post for workshop highlights and student work of past workshops similar to this one.

MIXED MEDIA ENCAUSTIC: FIBER EXPLORATIONS
May 1-3
Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION
See this post and this post for workshop highlights and student work of past workshops similar to this one.

MIXED MEDIA ENCAUSTIC: FIBER & STRUCTURE
June 28-July 2
Cullowhee Mountain Arts, Cullowhee, NC
WORKSHOP WEB SITE COMING SOON!
See this post and this post for workshop highlights and student work of past workshops similar to this one.

APPROACHES ON PAPER: ENCAUSTIC & PRINTMAKING
September 17-19
Elise Wagner Studio, Portland, OR
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION
See this post for workshop highlights and student work of past workshops similar to this one.

MIXED MEDIA ENCAUSTIC: TEXTURE & LAYERS
October 14-16
R&F Paints, Kingston, NY
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION, INFORMATION & REGISTRATION
See this post and this post for workshop highlights and student work of past workshops similar to this one.

Workshop Highlight: Encaustic Collagraph & Line

This is an experimental, fun, why-not-try-it workshop exploring printmaking, line and encaustic.

When

August 1-3, 2019, 10am-4pm each day

Where

Elise Wagner’s Studio in Portland, OR

WHERE CAN I SIGN UP!

Please visit this link to sign up for the workshop. I look forward to working with you!

Basic Description

This is an experimental, fun, why-not-try-it workshop exploring printmaking, line and encaustic. Utilizing the natural luminosity, textural and layering possibilities of encaustic in combination with creating collagraphs utilizing found linear materials on fabric, Encaustiflex and paper, participants will experiment with a wide variety of innovative materials and exercises to inspire expressive marks while also developing a personal artistic voice. The application of thin layers of encaustic for collage, covering a board with fabric, drawing with horse hair, branding (creating marks with heated metal and wood burning tools), the use of stitch as a mark as well as the conceptual use of transparency and layers is also discussed. A bonus in this workshop is the opportunity to create your own grids, laces and lace like forms using free motion sewing machine embroidery on water soluble stabilizer-these sewn grids may also be basis for creating a collagraph. Optional individual critiques with Lorraine will be offered to all participants.

Who should take this workshop?

  • You are a semi-beginner to advanced painter (encaustic or other) who loves experimenting with materials, mixed media, alternative processes and line.
  • You are interested in what the grid can do for your work, but don’t want to make gridded paintings. NOTE: You won’t make a gridded painting in this workshop unless you want to do so, but understanding the concept of the grid as a foundational structure will make your paintings stronger. Guaranteed.
  • You want to express yourself in a more meaningful way with your work.
  • You want to create consistency, a personal voice, your own mark, in your paintings and body of work as a whole.
  • Your creative process is stagnating and you need to learn a new process, idea or technique.
  • You love materials and innovative ways to use them.
  • You dislike drawing and/or you’re afraid of it.

What happens in this workshop? What will I learn?

  • Marking, drawing, making marks with fun exercises involving music, text, folding/cutting paper, collage, fire, found materials are sure to relax you so that you don’t even know you’re drawing and are designed for you to generate ideas, content and a personal mark.
  • Experimenting with the new, fun material, Encaustiflex.
  • Utilizing a printing press to experiment with the magic of the collagraph utilizing found and alternative materials, etc.
  • Experiment with line ideas using innovative techniques and materials such as horsehair, pyrography (making marks with heated metal and tools), stitching by hand or machine, Solvy (water soluble embroidery stabilizer) in combination with encaustic.
  • In depth discussion, brainstorming and slide talk about line and the grid-what it means in art, what it does, how to generate it, how to use it.
  • What the concepts of good design are and how to apply these ideas to fine art.
  • Effective and productive doodling.
  • Experiment with encaustic tools such as a tjanting, incising into the wax, creating grids and lines using masks, paintsticks and encaustic friendly drawing media.
  • How you can create your own process to make a cohesive body of work and how that process can relate to and enhance content in that work.
  • Learn what found drawings are and how you can use them as a tool for inspiration and content generation.

What kind of work will I make?

Please enjoy the work example pics below from participants who have previously taken this workshop as well as images from Elise’s fabulous studio. Please visit additional blog posts here and here and here and here for more information related to this workshop.

WHERE CAN I SIGN UP!

Please visit this link to sign up for the workshop. I look forward to working with you!

The Evolution Of A Mark, Part Two

Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see.
-Edgar Degas

Just about this time last year, I wrote The Evolution Of A Mark, in which I trace back to how and why I make the marks I make today…specifically speaking to the gouache paintings I’ve been developing on and off for many years and just recently got back into working again. Not just contemplating my navel, I’m hoping that by retracing how I got from there to here, I can help other artists look at their own work histories and trace back to what it is that sets their work apart. Once that thing is recognized, it can be developed.

My first post left off at gracefully closing the door on my textile design career and   blessedly opening a window into my fine art career at about my mid-20’s. I wanted a career in fine art, but I wasn’t a painter yet so I started by going back to my roots in textiles. I began by making art quilts that combined all of my loves at the time-photography, hand/machine sewing, found objects, beading, drawing, painting-pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. My modest success making and showing them got me into graduate school with a fellowship no less! I included some detail shots below…be kind, these quilts are OLD and so are the images.

Celebration detail, Portrait, Flower detail, Portrait detail, Flower detail, All: Hand and machine embroidered, quilted, beaded, fabric paints, found objects, photo transfers, fabric/paper collage, found fabrics

My work in grad school was (and still is) rooted in drawing connections between the earth and body. How I make these connections changed many times over the years with various explorations, but back then I was interested in making those connections through visual patterns. I started with art quilts but quickly dove into line work and using the sewing machine as a drawing tool. I was captivated by the sewn line as well as by the thread itself. There was something so simple and lovely in the pile of cut thread scraps on my sewing table that I started to use them in the quilts and as inspiration for drawings. So enthralled was I by the thread, I eventually abandoned the fabric base and just focused on making quilts out of the thread alone. My explorations led me to discover the magic of Solvy, a water-soluble embroidery stabilizer and I was hooked. My process was to cut threads from many spools and place them in a pile, then sew them together by following the flow of the clumps as I arranged them. I was so excited that this process developed from the basic process of sewing and this is where my interest in process as a form of art making was born. The sewn thread pieces resemble pelts, grass, hair, skin, which to me, spoke visually of both earth and body…another exciting thing that told me I was on the right track to combining process, materials and content.

Purity detail, Eleuthera, 12×12 inches, Purity, 6×4 feet each panel, Purity detail, White, 9×12 inches, Beginning, 2×3 feet, Rise, 4×5 feet, Beginning detail, Rise detail. All: Rust and Eco Stained fabrics, paint, machine quilted, embroidered, silk and cotton fabric, rayon thread.

From here, I made three 4×6 foot quilted ‘paintings’ for my thesis show that were comprised of the thread pieces, stained and painted fabrics, drawing and painting (pictured above). At the same time, I was also working on a series of drawings that started by manipulating and photocopying the threads, then using graphite paper to transcribe the photocopied images to another paper. The photocopy was placed on top, and the graphite paper underneath, I would then trace the photocopied image over and over without seeing the drawing I was creating underneath. The drawing created resembled a dense tangle of clumpy swirls, which referenced roots, veins, water systems and various other underlying channels integral to life.

Thread drawing photocopy detail, Clump 1, graphite on print paper, 22×30, Thread drawing photocopy, Thread drawing photocopy detail, Clump 2, graphite on print paper, 22×30

The repetitive act of tracing and sewing the threads embedded in my psyche and I found myself instinctively using it whenever I was drawing. I’ve created many series using this mark and it has varied over the years as you can see in the gallery below. Even with its variations, I’m pretty much stuck with it…or it’s stuck with me. See more of these paintings on my web site here and paintings on plexiglass here.

January in the Rockies 5, 9×12 inches, One Dark Cloud, 20×16 inches, January in the Rockies 3, 9×12 inches, Rain Over the Hill With Lake, 20×16 inches, Frost Fog, 16×20 inches

I hope you enjoyed this article and it’s helped you in some way. I always love hearing from you, so please feel free to comment (comment section is located in the upper left sidebar of this article). If you’re intrigued by line, want to find your personal mark or are just searching for some cool ways to add line to your encaustic paintings, my workshop at the encaustic conference is just for you! Read about it here and please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Stay tuned for my April blog posts-a two part series on the self-made residency I completed in January-February. I’ve gotten loads of questions about how to start one, where to stay, what to take, etc. and I’ll explain it all. I look forward to sharing this information with you and also sharing the work I produced during my residency. If you can’t wait, visit my Instagram for a sneak peak. See you in April, Happy Spring!

Workshop Highlight: Fiber and Structure

Since 2001 I have been combining encaustic and fiber or fiber related techniques in my work. In fact, I actually initiated the practice of combining these two highly compatible and versatile mediums. With an emphasis on mixed-media, this workshop is specially created to address the interests of artists working in fiber and fiber related techniques.

Where Do I Sign Up?

Jeff Hirst Studio
Chicago, IL
Workshop Web Site and Registration

Since 2001 I have been combining encaustic and fiber or fiber related techniques in my work. In fact, I actually initiated the practice of combining these two highly compatible and versatile mediums. The techniques I used in my work at that time and continue to use are all self taught and/or innovated by me. I continue to experiment, mix it all up and encourage exploration and a ‘just go for it’ attitude in all of my workshops. For more about my early work and other blog posts in which I reference my early explorations see (in order of relevance) this post, this post, this post and this post ..or just scroll down for more information and to see some of my paintings employing the techniques and material explorations covered in this workshop. See this post for student work from this and other encaustic and fiber related workshops.

Updated Workshop Description: With an emphasis on mixed-media, this workshop is specially created to address the interests of artists working in fiber and fiber related techniques such as quilting, weaving and surface design. This workshop will cover the basics of working in encaustic as well as encaustic application techniques to enhance or create structure and texture, color mixing, layers, surface manipulation, and the creation of pattern using stencils, candy molds and tjaps. Participants will also be introduced to alternative materials such as drawing with horse hair and water soluble embroidery film combined with machine and hand stitching. Innovative surface design techniques such as deconstructed screen printing (without harmful dyes), rust printing and indigo will also be introduced. Working two or three dimensionally, participants are encouraged to develop a personal vocabulary and explore current content interests by combining the infinite possibilities of encaustic in combination with fiber structures, surfaces and stitch.

What You Will Learn

See this post and read both workshop descriptions in the post as well as see lots of additional eye candy of the techniques covered in this workshop.

Additionally…

  • Because Jeff has generously offered the use of his printing tables, we will explore the innovative technique, Deconstructed Screenprinting..a very loose, super fun printing method that creates multi-layered, multi-colored textures on fabric. I have practiced this technique and have adapted a way to do it without using harsh textile dyes and chemicals. These fabrics are works of art in and of themselves, but can also be used as a wonderfully inspired basis for your encaustic paintings. Scroll down for images of my paintings utilizing these fabrics as a base.
  • Covering a board with fabric or paper..not just applying to the front of a board, but wrapping all the way around..activating the sides of a cradled board and utilizing book corners so that your painting becomes an all around beautiful object.
  • We will create 3 dimensional sewn drawings using the amazing water soluble embroidery stabilizer, Solvy. These sewn constructions can be used to collage into paintings, stiffened with wax for sculptural possibilities and much more.
  • The application of thin layers of encaustic for collage and a discussion of the conceptual use of layers, pattern and repetition.
  • Much more…if you haven’t done so yet, be sure to visit this blog post for more of what will be covered in this workshop. I look forward to working with you!

Where Do I Sign Up?

Jeff Hirst Studio
Chicago, IL
Workshop Web Site and Registration

Images of My Encaustic Work and Additional Student Work

Workshop Highlight: Surface Design & Layers at Madeline Island School of the Arts

If you are a fan of my early work and want to know the secrets of how I made it, then this is the workshop for you! Madeline Island School is ranked among the top five art and craft schools in the country because of the quality of instruction and loveliness of the surrounding area that inspires creativity.

If you are a fan of my early work and want to know the secrets of how I made it, then this is the workshop for you!

ENCAUSTIC MIXED MEDIA: SURFACE DESIGN & LAYERS
September 24-28
Madeline Island School of the Arts, LaPointe, WI
WORKSHOP DETAILS & REGISTRATION

Nestle in to the secluded Madeline Island in an absolutely gorgeous part of the world on Lake Superior. Madeline Island School is ranked among the top five art and craft schools in the country because of the quality of instruction and loveliness of the surrounding area which inspires creativity. If you’ve heard anything negative about the weather there, it’s a fib the locals spread so that they can keep the awesomeness to themselves!! I’m absolutely thrilled to be teaching at MISA this year and hope you will join me. See some lovely images of the school and read more about MISA and their location on their web site here .

Some of the materials, techniques and process we will cover include:

  • Creating patterns with shibori on fabric or paper using indigo, rust printing and bleach discharge.
  • Creating marks with heated metal and wood burning tools (pyrography)
  • Creating ornamental and repetitive patterns using encaustic with collage, stencils, tjaps and candy molds.
  • The application of thin layers of encaustic for collage-learn how to get rid of those blurry/bumpy areas when collaging into encaustic.
  • How to effectively mix, apply and fuse encaustic layers to best utilize it’s translucency and depth.
  • How to cover a panel with any fabric or paper and work back into it with encaustic.
  • How to incorporate line and drawing into your encaustic paintings using horsehair and other mixed media techniques.
  • How to incorporate stitch into your encaustic paintings for exciting textural surfaces.
  • How to make a perfect encaustic photo transfer.
  • How to create a flawlessly smooth encaustic surface.
  • The magic of the grid and how you can use it to create exciting compositions.
  • We will also discuss the conceptual use of layers, pattern and repetition with images, books and actual paintings for inspiration.
  • And so much more…just like all of my workshops, this one is taught from an experimental, alternative, hands-on approach…one never knows what other techniques and possibilities might pop up during the workshop.
  • Also in the spirit of all of my workshops, we will spend a lot of time exploring the surrounding landscape for found objects, photographs and inspiration.

See the gallery below for some workshop highlights and workshop work from a similar workshop I recently taught at RF Paints. For more information and highlights from workshops similar to this one, see this post, this post, this post and this post.

 

The Evolution of A Mark

How does an artist acquire a consistent style or voice? In this post, I trace how and where from my personal mark evolved.

Happy first day of Spring, my Art Bite Blog friends!!

Continuing from my last post on the topic of marks, as I sit down to write this post about the process of my recent acrylic and gouache paintings, (and pictured above) I realize I can’t write about them without first thinking about where and how the marks in these paintings originated. I also took into consideration the many conversations I’ve had with students and workshop participants regarding approaching galleries with a consistent ‘style’ or ‘voice’ and how an artist acquires such things. I look at my work from five years ago and it’s so drastically different from what I do today, yet when I look at the total evolution across the span of twenty years, I can see why the total body is related and it’s an interesting path. Giving lectures about my work has enabled me to chronologically trace back to where I am today, but I only go as far back as grad school and rarely go back that far anymore. I’ve recently started a huge studio clean-out and as a result I’ve come across work that I’ve long forgotten about. Seeing this work again is what prompted me to go back even further, to delve into some of the reasons why I do what I do today. I would like to explore that path a bit in this post and in a few future posts. Perhaps reading about my journey will help you to develop and/or trace your own.

I first considered art as a career in high school with the discovery of Hieronymus BoschGeorgia O’Keefe and Wassily Kandinsky, not necessarily at the same time or in that order. My high school boyfriend’s father had a huge book of Bosch’s paintings and we would stare at it for hours. I loved the tremendous detail, the chaotic imagination and narrative. These paintings taught me to spend time, look further, to notice the small things not overtly apparent at first glance. I hope to encourage the viewer to do the same with my work by my adding camouflaged details one has to look to find. I was intrigued by O’Keefe’s voluptuous, sensual and simplified forms, use of color, subtle shading, smooth brushstroke and feminine subject matter. At that time, I had never seen any work similar to hers-mine was a more traditional exposure to art with pastoral landscape, tight still life and other popular art/craft of the 70’s, like scary clowns, bull riders and macrame owls…but I digress. I read everything I could about O’Keefe, poured over her work and even taught myself to successfully draw value, light and shadow by copying her drawings. I discovered Kandinsky around the beginning of undergrad and was literally blown away by the abstract expressionist ideas of communicating emotions through marks, patterns, gesture and color and that one could make a whole painting by simply being inspired by the emotions and melodies evoked by music. This approach to art making was totally foreign, yet it resonated with me almost immediately and I saw in my mind the art I wanted to make. Even though it isn’t obvious, I see the influence of O’Keefe’s wonderful forms and Kandinsky’s rhythmic marks in almost all of my work of the past 30 years. See the images below for some of my favorite paintings by these artists.

Although it was not my choice, I went to design school instead of art school…Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, now Philadelphia University and my major was textile design. Throughout my schooling and subsequent ten year career as a textile designer, I learned the fundamentals of design..composition, color, scale, repetition, etc. and acquired a detailed painting hand by countless hours of DOING. My first job out of school was as a jacquard designer for home furnishings. The company was unique in that I could take on a line of fabrics and design everything from start to finish-from the painted designs, to choosing the weaves and colors, to correcting errors in the weaving mill and on the computer. I learned an exponential amount about all aspects of design and because I had to spend hours correcting the shape of a flower on the computer if I painted outside the lines, I developed a very tight painting hand and eye for detail. The mill had been a former tie manufacturer and my bosses, the new owners, had kept within the traditional style of florals, damasks and allover patterns, small to large scale. Designing fabrics for a large scale area like a wall or sofa presents certain problems in that the design must ‘flow’ evenly without certain elements creating a distracting line. Looking out for these kinds of design no-no’s helped me develop an excellent eye for balance and placement as well as that continuous flowing line still so prevalent in my work today.

After nostalgically writing that last paragraph, I must confess that I hated that textile designer job, I found so much of it creatively stifling and perfection seeking. Thirty years later, I am grateful for certain aspects of working as a designer and I’m certain I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without that early training. See the second group of images below where I have included some of my hand painted designs from that job. Keep in mind that the colors in the paintings only represent different weaves and not necessarily the colors used in the final fabric. It’s fun to look at these designs and see how my textile design background influenced my early encaustic paintings (and pictured below) as well as a tiny flicker of my recent acrylic and gouache series. If you don’t yet notice that tiny flicker, I will fill in the blanks as to where the marks in that series come from in a near future post.

Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t have thirty years to devote to developing your voice, or if your first career choice wasn’t a creative endeavor as mine was, a lot can be achieved with determination, maturity and persistence. As I have mentioned in many previous posts, drawing a little bit everyday is the road to developing your own mark. One of my favorite quotes from my favorite book, Art & Fear tells it like it is…What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide. In time, as an artists gestures become more assured, the chosen tools become almost an extension of the artists own spirit. In time, exploration gives way to expression. If you’re determined and persisting in working everyday, even if it’s a 15 minute drawing, you will achieve your artistic goals…guaranteed!

I hope you have enjoyed this post and it helps you in some way. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Stay tuned for an exciting April-a two part series focusing on inspiring hikes for artists with contributions from some of my artist friends. Covering hikes from all over the world, remote and urban, these hikes range from other-worldly to tranquil to transcendental.

Enjoy the first day of spring, see you soon.

Image Descriptions (From left to right, top to bottom)

  1. Georgia O’Keefe, Black Iris, 1926
  2. Georgia O’Keefe, Drawing XIII-I copied this drawing over and over, obsessed with learning to draw this way.
  3. Georgia O’Keefe, Drawing X, charcoal on paper
  4. Georgia O’Keefe, Blue and Green Music, 1919
  5. Georgia O’Keefe, Music, Pink and Blue, 1918-I had a framed poster of this painting in my room through high school, college and my first apartment.
  6. Georgia O’Keefe, Special Drawing No 9, charcoal on paper, 1915 -I remember reading in her biography that this drawing was done while she had a headache, I found it fascinating that she was able to capture such a thing.
  7. Wassily Kandinsky, Yellow Red Blue, 1925
  8. Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913, one of my all time favorite paintings.
  9. Wassily Kandinsky, Blue Circle, 1922
  10. Hieronymus Bosch, Concert in the Egg
  11. Hieronymus Bosch, detail, Garden of Earthly Delights
  12. Hieronymus Bosch, detail, Garden of Earthly Delights
  13. Wassily Kandinsky, Composition IX, 1936
  14. Hieronymus Bosch, detail, Garden of Earthly Delights
  15. Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights
  16. Wassily Kandinsky, A Center, 1924

 

Image Descriptions (From left to right, top to bottom)

1-7.  Lorraine Glessner, home furnishing textile designs for Jacquard Fabrics, Inc., gouache on Bristol board, circa 1991-94.
8. Lorraine Glessner, Sprawl, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006
9. Lorraine Glessner, Seed, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006
10. Lorraine Glessner, Misguided Angel Redux, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 36x36x1.5, 2010
11. Lorraine Glessner, Flaupher, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006
12. Lorraine Glessner, Aggregate, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 24x42x1, 2006
13. Lorraine Glessner, Crush, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 24x2x1.5, 2010
14. Lorraine Glessner, Perfect Timing, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006

My Encaustic Fairy Tale: 3 Lessons Learned

3 Lessons I Learned as an Artist by Lorraine Glessner

While writing my last blog post chronicling my early journey with encaustic, I realized that I learned many valuable lessons through it all. Three lessons stood out as being most important while at the same time being those lessons that I’m constantly re-learning as I go.

When I’m teaching, I always begin each day with a quote that works to set the tone for that day and almost always it’s a quote from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. If you haven’t read it, go get it NOW, read it once and then turn around and read it again. I quote from it often because I read it often, roughly once a year since it was first introduced to me in graduate school. My copy is highlighted almost all the way through because each time I read it I find another valuable snippet that seems to speak directly to me and the struggles I may be going through at the time. All of the quotes from this book were used to write this post unless otherwise noted .

  1. Experiment often with current and new materials, make lots of samples, document and save them. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. the place to learn about your materials is the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide.
    I can’t recall where I first heard the 40/60 principle or even if I’m getting the percentages right, but it’s something we all must strive to do. The principle works something like this…60% of your studio work should be spent making work you are known for and/or work you are ‘comfortable’ making using materials, processes and ideas you know well. The remaining 40% should be spent experimenting with new materials, processes and ideas which will generate new work. If you keep doing this, sooner or later the ‘new’ work begins to seep into the current body of work and eventually it becomes your current body of work. If you apply this principle, your work and you as an artist, will continuously evolve and grow. This sounds great, but many artists may find it difficult to work experimentation into their busy and sometimes, very limited, studio time. What I’ve done to keep experimentation alive in my studio is average my daily hours and experiment for a percentage of that time-usually about 30 minutes to an hour for every 6-8 hours. I call this work my warm-up drawing time and sometimes will work on the same drawing all week, applying new layers each day (see the featured image above). I have so much fun just playing around with materials in the studio that I’ve forgotten about. Many times, this experimentation has generated new bodies of work that I would have never conceived of without first experimenting.
    Vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue. I don’t mention this in my last post, but my first year of graduate school was very difficult for many reasons. My first review was at the end of my first semester and it was coming up fast, so fast that I was in fear of not having anything to show. One of my committee members suggested just having a wall of samples for my review. I had a few samples, but not nearly enough so I spent 3 straight weeks barely coming out of my studio to make hundreds of samples. Only having limited time as well as keeping in mind that these were just samples prevented me from being too precious and worrying about making a ‘finished’ work. Those three weeks were perhaps the most painful but most prolific of my total two year experience-more importantly I learned so much about what my materials could do and what I, as an artist, could do. I saved almost all of those samples and I still use most of them as teaching tools today, both in workshops and in my own studio.
  2. You don’t always have to know what you’re doing. This lesson could be read two-fold: a) You don’t always have to know HOW to do what you’re doing and b) You don’t always have to know what you’re going to make-what it’s going to look like. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive or spontaneous. What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. Simply put, making art is chancy-it doesn’t mix well with predictability. Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.
    This is likely my favorite quote of all time and I read it in every workshop. It is absolutely essential to keep experimentation, the idea of imperfect perfection and  the element of chance in the work at all times. This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging you to make sloppy or ill-conceived work, rather, allow for a symbiosis to occur between you and your materials. Allow your materials to do what they do and you to push them gently in a certain direction. Full control and technical perfection is the death-knell for any work of art. It’s in the imperfections that true art is made and is the predominant concept behind the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi–an awesome subject for any artist to know, but far too complicated to explain here. The best book I have read on the subject is Wabi-Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper and Wabi-Sabi for Artist, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren is also good.
    When I first started working in encaustic, there were no books to refer to, no workshops and barely any information online, so I was basically on my own. I used tools that I already had in the studio, combined encaustic with other materials, basically developed my own processes and ways of doing things with this medium. The result was that I developed a truly original body of encaustic work. I absolutely believe that if I had taken an encaustic workshop, I wouldn’t have developed this work or perhaps it would have come much later. On the other hand, taking an encaustic workshop would have saved me two years of improperly ventilating wax fumes as well as understanding the importance of fusing and the reasons why Damar resin is added to the beeswax. While it’s okay not to know too much, ALWAYS work safely and technically accurate with your materials. Once you know those things, have fun and let things happen!
    Last, a great story illustrating the woe in striving for perfection comes from Art & Fear….The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right, solely on the quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scale and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pounds of pots would get an ‘A’, 40, a ‘B’, etc. those being graded on quality needed to produce only one pot-albeit a perfect pot to get an A. Well, came grading time and curious fact emerged: the work of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end, had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay. Remember this story every time you strive for perfection and find yourself overworking a piece into oblivion.
  3. Don’t start working on a white background.  Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. –Chuck Close
    The fear of the white canvas isn’t new, we’ve all experienced it in one way or another and have developed our own methods of fighting it.I always tell my students that art begins in the head with an idea, flows through the heart, which makes it personal and out through the hand, which makes the actual work. Too much emphasis in any one of those places creates an imbalance in the process. Whenever I have developed a finished work in my head and then tried to make it, I almost always fail due to the frustration that it isn’t coming out ‘right’. The same thing happens when I try to plan too much before beginning a piece, I get mired in the planning stage and never actually DO anything. The best method for me and one that I suggest to students is to develop a step by step process that will generate a mark, then follow or respond to that mark. The less control you have over that initial mark, the better.
    Covering a board with a stained or rust printed fabric and then responding to those marks was the process I developed in grad school. This process enabled me to create subsequent marks to generate paintings I never would have had I started with a white board. It was also important that I didn’t have total control over the initial process itself-in a sense the process controlled me and that was just fine.
    To see some of the stained fabrics and paintings I created using them, go to my last blog post. I have also presented a talk on generating process and artists who use process in their work-for artist links and a presentation outline go to this blog post.

While we’re on the subject of mistakes, learning and re-learning, be sure not to miss my next blog post listing 10 mistakes I have made as an artist.