My Residency Work: Found Objects, Line Drawings & Process

As we ease into the long summer days, I thought I’d keep it light and share with you some of the work I made during my Self Made Artist Residency in January. This post focuses on a new drawings series, mark-making and the use of process in art.

As we ease into the long summer days, I thought I’d keep it light and share with you some of the work I made during my Self Made Artist Residency in January. (Visit this post if you’d like to read about where I went and how I organized the residency itself.) I anticipated writing this as one big article, but I realized as I was organizing my images that although its all related, there are three distinct bodies of work that I developed, each of which deserves its own explanation.

My work has gone through several transitions over the years and each time it transitioned, it was because I was going through a major transition/transformation as a human. During these transformative times, I felt I could no longer rely on former processes and found it best to derive my next steps by creating new processes. Relying on process prevents us from getting in our own way by overthinking and overworking the work. Whenever I have a question about where to go next, I just go back to the process and my question is blissfully and easily answered. As humans, we feel safer when there are certain boundaries constructed-this pertains to all parts of our lives and begins in the security of the womb. Think of an infant overwhelmed by sitting in the middle of an empty room vs an infant playing happily in a playpen surrounded by toys. As artists, we are often overwhelmed by choice and creating limits on those choices allows us to move freely within that framework. I have presented several lectures about process and you can view snippets of the lecture and links to the artists here.

When I arrive at a new place, both locationally and conceptually, I always turn to mark-making to figure out my next steps. For the first couple of weeks in Florida, I went on long hikes to explore the locale and collected botanicals that grew abundantly in each particular area, so that I could ‘describe’ the area through the marks. I started this hiking/collecting/mark-making process during my Jentel Residency in 2014 and later expanded on it in Utah in 2016. The process is simple: Using my collected botanicals as drawing tools, I dip them in ink and trace the contour of the landscape from left to right on paper. Then, utilizing these initial marks as a structure, I go back and ‘fill in’ using fine tipped pens. Magically, these drawings take on the overall rhythm and look of the terrain. This is the same process I used in Utah, the only difference between that series and this one is that I used a large, landscape oriented, Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook instead of a mini sketchbook. I wanted to see if this process retained its magic when translated on a larger scale and it did(!) as you can see in the finished images below. I also included images of some of the collecting hikes I did, so you can get an idea of the growth and terrain. For more, please visit my Instagram Stories Highlights labeled Florida.

Unfortunately, since I returned home in mid-February, my life has been a whirlwind of traveling and teaching and I have yet to work on these drawings again. As it often goes with us artists, I now find myself needing another residency to finish the work I started in my last residency!

Initial Markmaking Experiments

Tracing the Contour of the Landscape with Markmaking Tools

Finished, ‘Filled In’ Drawings

Various Image/Collecting Hikes Showing Terrain & Growth

The Self-Made Artist Residency: Part 3 Packing & A Plan

In this third and last article on organizing your own Self-Made Artist Residency, I discuss how I carved out a studio space, what I brought with me, what I wish I brought with me and some of what I did while I was there.

Welcome to Part 3 of 3 of The Self-Made Residency Series of articles. Part 1 lists the good, bad and ugly parts of embarking on this adventure. Part 2 outlines decisions you need to make regarding the where, when and how to organize and plan your residency. In this last article, I discuss how I carved out a studio space, what I brought with me, what I wish I brought with me and some of what I did while I was there.

At this point, you’ve put down a deposit on accommodations, you’re a few weeks away from departure and you’re thinking about what to do while you’re there. It’s best to have a loose plan for a few things you might want to work on and allow for some surprises once you get there. I packed mostly portable, water-based art materials and I gave myself the restriction that all I pack for studio must fit in one small box, lest I go berserk and take everything I own. I also restricted my color palette to black, white, red and brown-I may have thrown yellow ochre in as well, but didn’t use it much. I brought my big set of Caran d’ache crayons in case I wanted access to any other colors, but I pretty much stayed within my chosen palette. As I mentioned many times on this blog, hiking is a big part of my travel studio practice, so of course I packed my back pack art materials. (Read this article to see what I take with me in my pack-I’ll be updating this article with fun new portable materials in my next post!) I took a fold out card table in case I needed extra space, but I didn’t end up using it. As it turned out, my cabin came furnished with a kitchen table, a long coffee table and a table out in the sun room, all of which I designated my ‘studio’. I even employed the second bedroom daybed as my drying rack! I also took with me a roll of plastic and covered every table surface, the wall and the floor at my painting table so as not to make a mess with my art making activities. I wished I had taken a few clip on lights-an artist can never have enough light-and I will remember this for next time.

When I got there, it took me a week or so to acclimate and create a daily schedule for myself. I mapped out the parks I wanted to hike, art museums/galleries I wanted to visit and came up with a loose plan for the next 5 weeks. Basically, I hiked, did yoga, wrote and painted en plein air during the early part of the day, then read, meditated and painted in my house studio during the late afternoon and night. (A more detailed article on the work I made during my residency is coming up soon! In the meantime, check out the gallery below for a sneak peek.)

It may sound boring, but I accomplished so much, hiked many miles, painted many landscapes, rested, worked hard, wrote reams, saw some art, started 3 new drawings series, met my first alligator and manatee, chatted with locals, took a tour of secret trails with a park ranger, found many random hearts while hiking, got a natural tan in the middle of winter, fell in love with swamps all over again, ate cookies every night and can’t wait to do it all again next year.

I hope you found this series of articles helpful. If you’re planning your own self made residency or have completed one, please share in the comments where you went—comments are located in the top left side bar by the title of the article. Please enjoy the photos below of my ‘studio’ space and some of the work I made. If you’re interested in seeing more images of my residency, scroll my Instagram feed and check out my story highlights entitled ‘Florida‘. Stay tuned for my next blog post in which I’ll share with you new portable art supplies for your summer travels.

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!

5 More Mistakes I Made As An Artist

I find it very helpful to take stock at the end of the year, both of my professional triumphs and even more helpful, of my professional flops. Listing mistakes not only prevents us from repeating them, but allows us to learn from them and to recognize how we might not be who we are today without them.

Last year during this festive holiday season I wrote two blog posts outlining 10 Mistakes I Made As An Artist, Part 1 and Part 2. I find it very helpful to take stock at the end of the year, both of my professional triumphs and even more helpful, my professional flops. Listing mistakes not only prevents us from repeating them, but allows us to learn from them and to recognize how we might not be who we are today without them. 

  1. Not putting my best work out there. I have heard over and over again by many artists and art mentors that its best to put only your best pieces out there and keep and rework the unsatisfactory ones. But I wonder how many actually do this when pressed for time getting ready for a show? I’ve made paintings that are just blah and I can’t take the time to figure it out because I have a deadline and rush, rush, rush, it’s gone to Fedex and hanging on a wall with me cringing at the opening. What’s kind of silly is that some of these paintings are the first to sell at said opening, which makes me even more depressed because then I realize I can’t even judge the quality of my own work! The root of the problem lies in poor planning, poor studio discipline and poor time management. I may not be able to understand why my not so good paintings sell and the ones I love collect dust in storage, but I can do better at working on my time and studio discipline problems, especially before a show. 
  2. Not attending enough openings. Like a lot of us artist types, I’m an introvert and a bit of an empath. I don’t mind being around people for the most part, but interacting at openings truly exhausts me, as do many large group social activities. I also find it difficult to view the work at openings, which is what I really want to do when I’m there. But openings aren’t really for intimately viewing art, openings are for supporting the artist, discussing the art and meeting new people. A few years ago I decided to make a New Year’s resolution to attend at least one opening and/or one artist talk a month. Even though I go through a little social anxiety beforehand, I’ve pretty much stuck to it and the experience has been quite rewarding. I don’t stay long, but I make a point to interact, to ask questions and to introduce myself to either the artist or to a few others while I’m there. I’ve met many people, some of whom I now call friends. I’ve seen some amazing shows and created a new habit of sharing the work I’ve seen on my Facebook. It’s been a veritable win/win/win and instead of dreading openings, I actually look forward to attending them.
  3. Not taking enough art classes/workshops. I spend a good deal of my time sharing with and teaching others and although I learn a lot from my students, sometimes I want to be in the student seat, having fun and making a mess with new ideas, new products and new voices. I have only taken two workshops in the 15 years since graduate school-One with Lisa Pressman and the other with Laura Moriarty and both workshops were worth their weight in gold. I was at a crossroads in my work during each workshop and they both shook me out of my doldrums, I am grateful. But there have been many, many workshops I’ve passed over for one reason or another-mostly lack of time. One resolution I will add to my 2019 list is to take a workshop every year. I’m keeping my eyes open for unique workshops with well known instructors in plein air painting, oil/chalk pastels, markmaking, collage, creative writing, Chinese brush painting, mixed media, just to name a few. Suggestions are welcome. 
  4. Not taking enough risk in my art. If you read my recent post, The Evolution of A Mark, you’re familiar with my early creative development involving a career in textile design. Because of this, it’s ingrained in me to create with sale-ability in mind. I have pretty much broken this mindset over many years but it still lurks in the darkest shadows of the studio and poisons my creative mojo. For this reason, I have had many ideas I simply repressed because they were too risqué and that is more than sad!! I made a list of these ideas as I have recommended other artists do and I have made some things on that list, but wish I’d made more. Emily Hopcian of Unsettled writes “the moments we most remember — those which make our stories rich, our lives worth living and our dreams worth pursuing — are the ones where we just say yes. When we plunge head first into the things that scare the shit out of us.” I need to silence the little voice that screams NO, tells me that it’s a dust collector I’m creating and no one will buy it and for Pete’s sake, quit worrying if no one will buy it!! 
  5. Making work I’m tired of making because it sells. Many times during my career I have said ‘this is exactly the work I should be making right now’ and those times feel so good! But too many times that ‘right now’ passes and it’s time to move on but I don’t. I like my current work, but I don’t love my current work. I feel it’s work I should have made two years ago and did make, but I feel I’ve lingered in making it too long because it’s comfortable. I’ve done this many times over my 15 year professional career and need to cut those lingerings short, create and  experiment with abandon and do it more often. 

Listing these mistakes at the end of the year helps in creating your Studio Resolutions for the following year. Stay tuned for my 2019 Studio Resolutions List coming up in January and read this post and this post for my 2018 Resolutions if you need ideas for your own list. I look forward to reading some of your resolutions in the comments section as well as some of your mistakes. (The comments tab is located at the top left of this post under the tags.)

I am overwhelmed by the support Art Bite Blog has received this year and I am truly grateful for all of you! Wishing you the very best of this Holiday Season, see you soon in 2019!

Encaustic PaintSmash: Tips, Composition & Things to Think About

I hope you’ve been getting into the last two Encaustic PaintSmash How-To’s and having some fun with it. In my last post I discussed a bit about how to carve out a composition from the hot mess slather of paint. Here, I get a bit more detailed regarding composition, plus some tips and things to think about while you work.

I hope you all had a great summer and are getting into my favorite fall season. I love feeling the crisp air, moon and star gazing through clear skies and being inspired by those amazing fall colors.

Fall also inspires new ideas, techniques and methods. I hope you’ve been getting into the last two Encaustic PaintSmash How-To’s and having some fun with it. In my last post I discussed a bit about how to carve out a composition from the hot mess slather of paint. Here, I get a bit more detailed regarding composition, plus some tips and things to think about while you work. For a review of Encaustic PaintSmash, visit this post for a How-To to making an alternative encaustic brush from flashing material and this post for a How-To and video link on how to use it. Also, visit this post for my favorite tools in which some of the tools I mention in this article are highlighted.

Go to my YouTube Channel for fun PaintSmash videos demonstrating scraping, carving, color use and using alternative brushes.

  1. Some tips to keep in mind.
    • Glide, don’t scrape with the razor blade. Make sure you hold your razor blade at a 45 degree angle, not straight up and down. Resist the urge to dig in, rather think of the word GLIDE and not SCRAPE, as you work with the razor blade.
    • Focus on small areas. As you begin to scrape all that slathery paint may be a bit overwhelming so make sure you focus on a small area and then another. Don’t try to scrape it all back at once. Some areas may need a lot of scraping while others may need very little.
    • Frequently evaluate your work. Take it from the table and hanging it vertically. The work changes with every scrape and changes drastically when you hang it vertically. If you’re confused about where to go next in the scraping process, hanging the work vertically will help you see more clearly.
    • Clean your tools frequently. Heat the metal slightly and wipe clean with paper towel. Cleaning your tools keeps the blades sharp and you in more control over what you’re doing by cutting down on that annoying gunking up thing that sometimes happens.
    • Save your scrapings. Use scrapings as color and/or add to paintings for more texture. Some of your scrapings will come off in a colorful ‘ribbon’. Add this form right back into the painting, use it like collage to add a small amount of color elsewhere in the painting. Fuse it with the torch, use your fingers or brayer to flatten it down. Leave it as is or scrape it back with the loop or Sculpture House tools.
    • Take a risk. Don’t be afraid to remove too much or try to “save” certain areas. The worst is not taking enough off in one area in order to ‘save’…if you do that too much, all that deliciousness underneath will never be revealed! You have to be able to take that risk and if you do remove something amazing, you’ll just as soon find something else just as amazing.
  2. Composition in any painting becomes stronger with color contrasts. Be open to these contrasts as you scrape. Look for (in no particular order):
    • Complimentary color combinations. Get yourself and nice big color wheel and hang it in your studio for reference. Even though I have color wheel burned into my brain from design school, I still reference my studio color wheel constantly.
    • Quiet next to busy. You will find many busy areas when you use the PaintSmash method of painting. Make sure you are balancing these textured, busy areas with solid, quieter areas of color. If you find you have too many busy areas, add a solid area with a brush.
    • Neutral tones next to brights. Use your grays, whites and earth tones next to brighter areas to make those bright colors vibrate and the composition dance.

Just Breathe: The Importance of Taking a Break

I love my chosen profession and I really do feel like I’m always on vacation. Anyone in any profession who loves what they do feels that way and I believe it’s especially easy to feel like that as an artist. But when you’re working seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day, even though you love what you do, you’re actually not on vacation.

I never do this, I never relax and never, really….just breathe.

I am of the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” school of thought and therefore, have had no summer vacation since graduate school fifteen years ago. Being a mid-30’s emerging artist/adjunct professor/waitress at that time and many years afterward really didn’t afford me the chance to slow down. I hit the ground running after graduate school and even now after two years of retirement from university teaching, I still feel like I haven’t taken a breath. Without that steady teaching paycheck I have been very focused on the business of art, generating multiple streams of income and remembering to paint every once in a while! I just went beyond a monumental birthday and realize I’m in my Golden Years..lol..and I just need a little break. More important than that realization is that I have given myself the permission to take a break.

I love my chosen profession and I really do feel like I’m always on vacation. Anyone in any profession who loves what they do feels that way and I believe it’s especially easy to feel like that as an artist. But when you’re working seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day, even though you love what you do, you’re actually not on vacation.

So just for the short month of August I have decided to give myself a break from writing this blog. I will happily return, refreshed and full of learned words on September 5. In the meantime, I will be focusing on creating work for Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show happening September 14-16. This is a very competitive, professionally run show that has been consistently ongoing since 1928 and I’m so grateful to have gotten in since applying for many years. I must get to work and make a good impression.

Take a break, my weary friends, you can paint when it’s 30 degrees and snowing! Enjoy the rest of your summer and don’t forget to breathe.

 

 

 

 

Encaustic Paint Smash 101: A How-To Using Alternative Brushes

Whether you consider yourself a professional artist or not, you still need to loosen up and get back to your inner infant artist–this is how I arrived at Paint Smash. This is the first of a series of tutorials on the subject and covers the use of alternative brushes for encaustic painting.

I have been developing a new method of encaustic painting called Paint Smash–the method is not so unlike the same term used to reference infants playing with paint–but I’m a real artist, you see ; ) Real artist or not, I still need to loosen up and get back to my inner infant artist and this is how I came to Paint Smash. In my last post I confessed that I have slowly been giving up the use of traditional brushes for DIY alternatives when painting in encaustic. I shared with you one of my brush making techniques using flashing to form any brush shape and size your waxy heart desires. Using tools like my flashing brushes in conjunction with other tools like mallets, brayers, rolling pins, fists, fingers and whatever else you can find, I’m pushing, smearing, slathering, punching, modeling the paint onto the substrate instead. Encaustic is a unique painting medium in that it can be worked as a liquid, solid and semi-solid, which lends itself fantastically to paint smashing. This tutorial is the start of a series of Paint Smash techniques that I will share with you in subsequent blog posts.

Please stayed tuned for my next post, another segment of Paint Smashing in which I show you the amazing things that are revealed when you scrape back your Paint Smash. Super fun!

But before we discuss scraping, you have to learn how to use your new amazing flashing brushes, it’s truly deceptively simple.

What you need

  • A variety of DIY flashing brushes and/or metal clay scrapers and/or Venetian Plaster applicators (see this post for how to make flashing brushes and/or prepare clay scrapers for encaustic painting)
  • Encaustic paint in a variety of contrasting colors AND lots of white-a variety of whites is best.
  • A variety of traditional encaustic painting brushes-hog’s bristle or hake.
  • A torch or heat gun for fusing (torch is best for this technique)
  • 2-6 painting panels prepared for encaustic painting

 

How To Do (Scroll down for video links)

  1. Line up your traditional and alternative brushes on your griddle like you normally would for encaustic painting.
  2. The griddle should be nice and hot (up to 200-215 degrees, check your surface temp) the paint should be swimmingly melty.
  3. Line up your boards (at least 2-4) side by side or in a grid. Prepare them with a few solid areas of color that you can apply using any brush you like, but this part is easier with a traditional encaustic brushes. You can also pour the paint instead of painting and not use a brush at all.
  4. I always begin with a patchwork of blocks or a loose grid of overlapping strips of color in a variety of sizes, but you can paint anything you want. Whatever you paint, make sure you are painting over all of your boards with continuity and not making a distinction between separate boards.
  5. Fuse with a torch. Your painting surface should be nice and hot (but not smeary) after this fuse.
  6.  Using one of your alternative brushes, scoop/lift the paint from the griddle surface-you can use one or both sides of the brush. Your brush should bend/flex a little as you pick up the paint.
  7. Transfer the paint to your painting surface by slowly slathering it on sort of like frosting a cake. Flip your brush from front to back as you transfer the paint. Again, your brush should flex a little as you paint. These early layers will go on relatively flat, but subsequent layers will cling and this is where it gets interesting.
  8. Change to a contrasting color and repeat the alternative brush painting process several times.
  9. Fuse every 2-3 layers.
  10. After a few uses of your alternative brush, add some areas of solid color with your traditional brushes. Preferred colors at this stage are white or lighter colors or very dark colors that will contrast and visually ‘clean up’ the chaotic mess you’ve seemingly made.
  11. Continue painting in this way until you’ve built up 10-20 layers–10 being at the lowest points (the valleys) and 20 being the the highest points (the hills). In other words, your paintings should be highly textured and multi-dimensional, ready for their first scrape.

Want to see a video demonstration of these techniques?

To see a video of scooping the paint from the griddle and applying it to the substrate, go to my new IGTV (InstagramTV) channel (@lorraineglessner1)