9 Art Works I Need To Exist

Continuing my quest to explore why art is needed in the world, I list 9 works that are of profound significance to me as an artist.

As I was writing my last post 5 Reasons Why the World Needs Art & Artists, I had wanted to include images of art works that have resonated with me, that I can’t imagine the world without. But instead of including them in the last post, I needed to honor them with their own post. To have examples of actual works drives home the point that art is needed in the world and you, as an artist, are needed in the world as well. I have to say that there are thousands of paintings, sculptures, installations, etc. that have made their mark in my world but to include all, of course, would need a whole blog devoted to the subject. (Actually, there such a blog called Oh What a World, What a World. It’s my first blog that unfortunately got hacked so I no longer can add to it, but you can still view the amazing artists on it.)

In order to pare down my list I came up with the following criteria…I had to have seen the work in person, I had to remember the work without too much thought or googling, the work had to mark a turning point in my thinking or life, I would have it my personal collection if I could and the number of works had to be less than ten. Now, you may have seen most of them before, they are not obscure, but that’s not what this list is about. This was an interesting exercise for me and although I write about each work, I can say that whenever I viewed these pieces, overall, I was immediately at peace and invited to escape into a dream for a moment.

Are there artworks that pop into your head that are of a profound significance to you? That for you, absolutely must live in the world? I’m curious what they are and what it is they did/do for you. Please add them in the comments section located on the left at the top of this post near the title.

  • Agnes Martin, The Rose, 1965, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 72×72   When I first saw this at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was still in my teens and I thought this plain old grid was so boring…then I looked closely and SAW it. It is a light pencil grid on an almost indiscernible pale pink ground. That an artist could capture the essence, delicacy and beauty of a rose within a simple grid pattern while using almost no color left me speechless and forever in love with exploring the possibilities of the grid.
  • Cy Twombly, Shades of Night, 1978, oil paint, oil stick, graphite on paper, 41×27  The PMA has a special room for the suite of 10 paintings, 50 Days at Iliam. When I first saw it, I was in my late teens and the work angered me. I loathed these paintings. Despite my strong feelings of hatred, they intrigued me and I always made it a point to visit these works every time I was at the museum. I would stand and stare at them, the marks, the movement, the paint application, the paintings were so large and aggressive! Each time, I had a strong reaction and my hatred eventually turned to love as I learned about Twombly’s work and myself as an artist. I must say that every time I visit this room or any of Twombly’s works, I learn something more about painting.
  • Klee, Fish Magic, 1925, oil, watercolor, on canvas, 38×46  Who doesn’t love this painting? It’s a relatively small work tucked into a dark corner of the museum. Reminiscent of a child’s scratchboard drawing, it was one of the first paintings that communicated to me the message that art can be fun!
  • Picasso, Young Girl With A Goat, 1906, oil on canvas, 54×40  This lovely painting hangs high on a wall, close to the ceiling at the Barnes Museum. Despite my many visits to the Barnes, it was only on a recent visit that I noticed it. I can’t really put into words what attracts me to this painting except that its pink and gold and just makes me happy. I was in a happy place when I first noticed it and when I see it now, it takes me back to that moment. If I suddenly come into a large amount of money, it’ll be the first painting I purchase.
  • Henri Rousseau, Carnival Evening, 1886, oil on canvas, 46×35  I was very young (maybe junior high?) when I first saw this painting at the PMA. I loved Rousseau’s dreamy, clean, graphic painting style. I could understand his work, unlike the abstract expressionist works my young mind wasn’t quite ready to absorb. This painting was a dream and for many years, the postcard I purchased in the museum bookstore allowed me to dive into that dream whenever I wanted.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe, Music, Pink and Blue 2, 1918, oil on canvas, 35×29  If you’re a fan of this blog, then you know of the profound effect Georgia O’Keeffe had on my growth as an artist. This particular work was the first art poster I had in my room as a young teen, (it even took the place of Sean Cassidy, but I digress). I had it right in front of my bed, so it was the first thing I saw in the morning. I got lost in the sensual forms, tracing them with my eyes as I got used to the morning light. This certainly had some effect on my visual memory and likely carries into my paintings to his day.
  • Sandy Skoglund, Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981, Cibachrome color photograph, 27×35  It was at the PMA that I first saw Skoglund’s work in my mid-20’s. I was always intrigued with photographs and loved how Skoglund could realize fantastical worlds in her work. Within a few years, I learned Photoshop and was on my way to realizing my own fantastical worlds.
  • Picasso, Glass of Absinthe, 1914, painted bronze with absinthe spoon, 8x4x3  I’m not a big Picasso fan, so I’m totally laughing right now that two of his works made it to this short list. Although I’m not a huge fan, I learned to appreciate his work when I took a summer art history class in grad school. I had to choose one work of Picasso’s in the PMA’s collection for my paper and this one was it. Before that time, I didn’t know Picasso had done any sculpture and I loved the intimate scale and general fun-ness of this one. I researched the piece extensively and fell in love with the whole series. Once again, I was pleased to learn that an artist could wear many hats, make work in many disciplines and just have fun, Picasso or not.
  • Leon Frederic, Four Seasons, 1894, oil on canvas, 49×32  I was very young when I saw these pieces at the PMA and to this day, still visit them whenever I’m at the museum. What I love about them is the joyful exuberance and pure love that the artist had for these works…love, that you as the viewer can actually feel standing in front of them. This was another postcard purchase that I carried with me and hung in my room for at least a decade, it always brought me joy whenever I looked at it.

5 Reasons Why the World Needs Art and Artists

Winston Churchill once asked a most important question, “What is society worth without poets and artists?” The answer is nothing and here are 5 reasons why…

Winston Churchill once asked a most important question, “What is society worth without poets and artists?” Over the last few years, I have had many conversations with artist friends and mentees who have the concern that it feels ‘selfish’ or ‘self-serving’ to make art in a world with so many horrible things going on in it. I’m sorry to say that according to history, the world always has and always will have horrible things going on in it…but it has always had art as well. To fall into despair and want to fight the wrongs is natural for all empathetic humans. But please don’t stop making your art or beat yourself up for wanting to work in your studio rather than go to a protest. The world is a fallen place and we need art now more than ever.
During the last year or so, I’ve asked workshop students what art does for the them, for the world and the following were the most popular answers. There are many such lists that answer this same question and I would suggest that when you feel the need to create protest signs in lieu of your art, read these lists! It will benefit you and lots of others as well.

  1. Asks Questions  In my recent blog post article 3 Essential Art Evaluation Questions, I cite this and the next list item as one of the essential parts of a good work of art. In fact, I think the best art offers no answers but allows for further questions and good art asks both big and little questions. When considering questions in this respect, it’s not the literal asking, but the thought that counts.
  2. Expands Ideas Art provides an endless arena for experimental thoughts and ideas to enter our consciousness, both as a viewer and a maker. Just like asking questions without giving answers, it’s best not to spoon feed all thoughts and ideas right there in the work. Rather, allowing room for expansion of thought, discussion and even debate makes for the most interesting works.
  3. Health Benefits Don’t you feel good after working in your studio? Even if the work wasn’t going particularly well that day, you still feel like you’ve unloaded a burden. Well, there is actually a physical and physiological reason why you feel so good and it’s all in this interesting Business Insider article Why You Should Be Making Art Even If You’re Bad At It. If you stop making work because you feel bad about the state of the world, well, you’re only going to feel worse. So get into that studio, start feeling better and make the world a better place in the process!
  4. Create Beauty As serious artists, we aren’t supposed to mention ‘the B word’ these days. In fact, I’ve heard from a few curators if the word exists in your artist statement it knocks you down a few pegs. I’m a huge proponent of beauty in my own work as well as in the art I purchase. Ginny Ruffner is a well known artist who I have followed since grad school and whose life’s work has been focused on the idea and ideal of beauty. Also exploring the subject of beauty is the Ted Radio Hour Podcast, What Is Beauty? Each speaker makes the case for various kinds of beauty and that we may actually need beauty in our lives to survive. Denis Dutton is one of the speakers, whose work focused on beauty and why it’s actually essential to life. He states that the experience of beauty encourages us to make survival decisions by arousing and sustaining our interest…Beauty spurs us on simply by existing. Dutton also mentions a landscape structure that people all over the world universally consider beautiful. Artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid took this idea a step further by commissioning polling companies all over the world to conduct scientific research in order to derive what the public wanted to see in a work of art. The use of the poll was meant to mimic the democratic vote of the United States and to the make the point that if the general public could choose a president, why are they not a sufficient judge of art? The research data resulted in a series of paintings the two artists created of the ‘most wanted’ and ‘unwanted’ works of art, one of the most wanted is pictured at the top of this article. Also cited in the Ted Podcast is the inspiring story of Nathanial Ayers, the subject of the book and film, The Soloist, whose story serves as an excellent supporting example for why art and beauty is needed in the world.
  5. Spread Hope & Healing In my opinion, one of the most important components to a work of art and one I strive to include in my own. Sometimes we just need a place to escape to and don’t know how to get there. Art presents a vehicle in which to transcend to another time/place in order to reflect on the present. Hope is what is gained from these experiences and from hope comes healing.

Art Podcast Favorites List

The holidays are over, its cold and you’re stuck inside during the January doldrums. Time to grab your phone, start downloading some new art podcasts and get inspired!

The holidays are over, its cold and you’re stuck inside during the January doldrums. Time to grab your phone, start downloading some new art podcasts and get inspired! In my last post, I mentioned that one of my weekly studio resolution carry overs from last year was to keep my habit of listening to or watching Art Podcasts or Videos. In fact, I increased my listening and watching from last year’s 2-4 per week to 10-15 per week this year because I’m kinda addicted. I got so many requests for a podcast list, I see that there are some hungry for art inspiration listening ears.

I should mention that I actually subscribe to many Youtube video channels, but few of them are focused on art. If I watch an art video, it’s usually because its focused on a technique, a product or an artist interview-these are things that I’ve searched for specifically, so I don’t usually subscribe to any one art channel. For that reason I’m sharing with you my favorite Artist & Art Marketing Podcasts only. I subscribe to many, but I kept this list to 10 so as not to get too crazy. I also mention timing, especially the ones focusing on artist interviews…I have a short attention span, I don’t have the stamina for a 2 hour interview and I absolutely cannot listen to an incompetent interviewer. I would love it if you have a favorite art video channel or podcast you would like to share, please list it in the comments section (comments are at the upper left of the blog post title) so everyone can see it. I’m always looking for something new and my readers will appreciate some recommendations as well. The following Podcasts are listed in no particular order.

  1. Onward Creatives A marketing podcast that is not just focused on artists, but on all creative professionals writers, designers, etc. and I love listening to it for that reason. It’s good practical advice that can be applied to many aspects of creative marketing..and life for that matter.
  2. The Savvy Painter Artist Antrese Wood is the Savvy Painter who has a fun, friendly conversational interview style and edits her interviews to 50 minutes. What I really like about her is that she asks the questions I want to hear the answers to and asks them as they arise in the conversation. It’s an authentic, interesting and easy going listen.
  3. The Art History Babes Most of the workshops I teach include some aspect of art history because it is integral to understanding the context of one’s own work. I find that most of my workshop participants are craving some kind of art history in their lives and this podcast offers it up in a fun group chat by extremely knowledgeable women.
  4. 99% Invisible Not necessarily and ‘art’ podcast, but one that focuses on ‘invisible’ art–design and architecture. I love the relaxed interview style and relatively short snippets of succinct information. This podcast also has a knack for delving into unusual and extremely interesting subjects. I always learn so much from listening even for a short time.
  5. Art Marketing Podcast Helpful, practical information on a subject that all of us artists could use help with and delivered succinctly-most podcasts are under 30 minutes.
  6. Artists Helping Artists Two artists, Leslie Saeta and Margaret Sheldon discuss art marketing, materials, studio discipline, process, artist interviews and more in a fun, friendly, non-pretentious way.
  7. Hyperallergic Artist interviews from this always interesting art magazine. Most podcasts are under an hour.
  8. John Dalton Gently Does It Conversational artist and critic interviews. Very interesting guests and spot on interviews with great questions. Give yourself some time to listen to these interviews, they tend to go on a bit.
  9. Make/Time I come from a fine craft background in textiles, so I really appreciate these bite-sized (most 20 minutes and under) fine craft artist interviews focused on process and materials. Unfortunately, a new episode has not been added since August of last year, but I definitely recommend listening to the back episodes.
  10. Modern Art Notes-This is a bonus addition to my personal favorites list and comes from art friend and mentee, Celia Johnson, who highly recommended this podcast. It has since been added to my subscribed list, but unfortunately, I haven’t listened to it yet. However, judging from the podcast listings, it looks fantastic. Thank you, Celia!

Composition Continued: The Fibonacci Sequence

Happy Halloween! One thing that can be really scary for any artist is a painting that is seemingly missing something, it’s just WRONG and you can’t figure out what it is or how to fix it. Composition is a complicated, multi-faceted spooky mystery that baffles even the best of us. The Fibonacci Sequence is another tool for you to add to your composition toolbox and is the one I use most often in my own work. 

Happy Halloween, my lovely blog reading friends. No, I’m not going to talk about scary things in this post, but if you say Fibonacci in kind of a squeaky door, Vincent Price voice it does sound kind of scary : )

One thing that can be really scary for any artist is a painting that is seemingly missing something, it’s just WRONG and you can’t figure out what it is or how to fix it. Most of the time, these problems have something to do with design fundamentals like scale, color, proportion, etc, which all make up the COMPOSITION. Composition is a complicated, multi-faceted spooky mystery that baffles even the best of us, but knowing a few simple guidelines like The Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds can make all difference. The Fibonacci Sequence is another tool for you to add to your composition toolbox and is the one I use most often in my own work.

The Fibonacci Sequence is named after Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci. The Sequence, illustrated below, begins at 0, 1 then those two numbers added make up the next number in the sequence, which is 1, then those last two numbers added make up 2 and so on into infinity. In addition to being used extensively in other mathematical formulas, these versatile numbers are also proportionately related to the Golden Ratio, have been used in poetry and are seen in the growth rate of biological forms nature such as trees, sunflowers, pinecones and pineapples, even human skeletal growth. When these numbers are utilized in any kind of art or design, that design is said to be more pleasing to the eye-it just feels right.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144….

I first learned about this Sequence as an undergrad in a class called Math for Design and I was fascinated. Later, when I was working as a textile designer, we applied these numbers to our stripe patterns, tile designs and anything else that required repetition. Last, I return to the Sequence again and again in my personal work whenever I have a question about repetitive elements or where an element should be placed within the painting.

To utilize the Sequence in stripe patterns, we applied the numbers to inches, mixed up the sequence and naturally applied color. Illustrated below is a stripe pattern (created in candy corn colors for Halloween : ) that is first shown in the sequence as it stands (1), then the numbers in the sequence are mixed up (2), then another stripe pattern in a random number of inches (3). Which is more pleasing?

Addendum: In response to Tess Stieben’s comment regarding which stripe pattern is more pleasing, I added repeat patterns below to illustrate my response. Thank you, Tess!

Tess: Interestingly I prefer #3, it is dramatic, #1 is boring, #2 ok but #3 has a bold punch in the way the colors are divided making the dark contrast with the lighter colors.

My Response: Thanks for your comment, Tess. I see what you mean. Looking at it as is, without repeating, as if we were looking at a painting is quite lovely and I see what you’re saying. Now, think of the stripe as a repeat pattern, floor to ceiling running across a wall or even on a large sofa. Still think the same? The Fibonacci Sequence and the other ratios are used in design because they make the design more pleasing, more comfortable. The dynamic quality of pattern #3 may be more exciting as a painting, but not necessarily if it was covering the four walls of a room. While making paintings, this is also something to consider.

1

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2

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3

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According to the theory, stripe pattern 1 and 2 would be most pleasing. You certainly could have chosen 3, which is totally arbitrary and follows no compositional rules. Feel free to comment, I would be interested to know which stripe pattern is most interesting to you and why-the comment button is located at the top left of this article.

See the images below for examples of how you can apply this Sequence in your own work. I used this Sequence in grad school and beyond by applying inches to the spacing between repetitive elements as well as in the measurements of squares, circles and ovals themselves. Read this post for more about my early work as a designer and how/why I make the work I make today. When you begin to apply this sequence to your own work, please let me know how it’s working for you and if/how it’s made your compositional life easier.

It is important to keep in mind that all of these compositional tools I’ve been writing about in my last few posts are just tools and can be kept in your mental toolbox to use when you need them. As Francis Bacon is attributed to saying, “Knowledge is Power”, so learn what you can and use it wisely.

Addendum: In response to Shary Bartlett’s comment on this post, I created a gallery below where the areas in which I used the sequence are most prominent in the work. In the paintings below, the sequence is also used in the regularly spaced intervals of information in terms of measurement, however the sequential numbers are not used. Thank you, Shary!!!

7 Essential Portable Art Materials

Are you an artist who loves to travel? In this post, I share with you 7 Essential Art Materials so you can be Art Prepared for your next trip. Whether you’re a hiker, a teacher, a commuter or a tourist, like to sketch indoors or out, if you’re planning a trip and don’t want to lose your creative mojo, this list will be a help to you.

Spring seems to be struggling to get here in the Northeast, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about summer teaching trips, hiking and painting in the great outdoors. I love to travel and fortunately for me, I do a lot of it as a result of teaching workshops. As you have learned from many previous posts, especially the last two on artists hikes, my favorite way to experience new places is to hike them and paint as I go. It’s important to me to not only record what I’ve seen via photographs, but to also record the essence of the place through my own marks. Please understand that these are just sketches, not masterpieces, they help me to keep my artist brain in tune when I’m not in the studio and they serve as memorable references for larger paintings. While I’m teaching a workshop, it’s sometimes difficult for me to get out and hike, so my favorite thing to do to wind down is sit in my hotel room and sketch. All of the materials I’ve listed in this post are inexpensive, lightweight, and fit neatly into my backpack, carry on bag or suitcase with plenty of room to spare. They are also TSA friendly so you can take take them with you when flying. Whether you’re a hiker, a teacher, a commuter or a tourist, like to sketch indoors or out, if you’re planning a trip and don’t want to lose your creative mojo, this list will be a help to you. Additional product images, examples of my sketches and how I use these materials are below each product description. Again, my sketches are not masterpieces. Be kind. ; )

  1. Piccadilly Open Bound Sketchbookz-craft
    An essential for any traveling artist to take along on a trip is the sketchbook, of course. I was introduced to this wonderful book through a workshop student last summer. There are so many good qualities I love about this book, the most important being that it’s compact, lightweight and can accept a variety of media, including water. Also important to me is that due to it’s open-bound binding and with a little breaking in, it lays flat without that distracting spiral between the pages most sketchbooks have. It also has a handy pocket to hold postcards, plants or anything else I collect on my travels. It doesn’t have a closure like other field sketchbooks, but that is easily remedied by a homemade tie, mine being a lovely piece of raffia. I don’t really like the word ‘SKETCH’ on the front, but that is also easily remedied by a little camouflage. Unfortunately, this book has been discontinued by Barnes and Noble, where I purchased it, but you can still get copies of it through Marketplace sellers here.


     
  2. Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel
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    I love watercolor for quick sketches and have purchased a few portable watercolor sets over the years, but this stackable set of 24 colors by Koh-I-Noor is definitely my favorite. I found it in a museum gift shop near the children’s art supplies so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of quality, but I was totally blown away by the color intensity when I did my first tests. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive comparison to better quality watercolor sets, watch this short video. I’m no watercolor expert and I’m sure I don’t need a whole 24 colors, but I love having them at my disposal if I want them. I’m used to working with gouache, so I’m always searching for white when working with watercolors and this set has white! It really doesn’t work the way gouache works, but I like having it there for that little bit of opacity I always seem to need. It also comes with a handy mixing tray that screws right on top. This set fits perfectly in my pack, but it might be a bit bulky for some, so just unscrew the stack and only bring the colors you need. The set is very inexpensive compared to most portable 24 color sets, so if you’re daring you can go for the mega 36 color set available here or the colossal 48 color set here. The 24 color set is sold by many online stores and you can compare prices if you Google, but if you’re in a hurry just click here.

  3. ArtGraf Water Soluble Graphite Disc
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    ArtGraf is simply brilliant for all that it offers in the way of water soluble products. I was first introduced to their products by way of their water soluble graphite pencils and sticks that I love. When I was in the art supply store purchasing more, I found that they also make water soluble graphite products that they call ‘discs’. The disc is more like a block, it’s shape inspired by tailor’s chalk and comes in many colors. I first purchased the Carbon Black disc, it’s rich velvety black almost simulates sketching in straight Sumi ink. I loved it so much, I bought the earth tone set and just love it for sketching the desert landscapes I gravitate toward when searching for hikes. The colors are so rich and complex, I can achieve a wide value range just by changing the amount of water I use. Although I would love to, I can’t take all of the colors with me, so I always have the dark brown disc in my pack. Its as rich as the black, but not as harsh and simulates the earth tones a bit better. Just like the black I can achieve a wide range of values and it’s great for simple sketches when I don’t have the time to break out my watercolor set. The discs are sold individually or in sets through many art supply stores, but for online convenience most of the products are sold by Amazon here.

  4. General’s Sketch and Wash Pencil
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    When I work in any medium, I’m always about adding the line, the mark and in my case, lines and marks add up to many tangled swirls. For me, working in watercolor is not about painting in detail, it’s broad, blended swaths of color that yearn for a little detail-and swirls, of course. This pencil allows me to add those details in lines ranging from very crisp to a thin wash. The pencil works like any other watercolor pencil by either adding water after drawing or dipping the pencil in water first, the latter being what I prefer. What sets this pencil apart from most other watercolor pencils is the rich black line I get when it’s wet. Most black watercolor pencils seem to start strong and then fade out when wet-this one does the exact opposite, starting out a lighter gray when dry and then getting more black when wet. Its the perfect tie together finish for a bright watercolor sketch. It’s available at most art supply stores, but I purchase mine here.

  5. Pentel Aquash Water Brush
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    What to do with all of these watercolor art supplies, you ask? The answer is, purchase a good water brush! I’m embarrassed to say that I purchased my first water brush in 2016 when yet another workshop student introduced me to these wonderful things. At the time, I had never heard of them and also had a difficult time finding them even online. Fortunately, they are pretty much everywhere now and come in a few brands which I have tried. My favorite is the Pentel brand because of it’s quality tip that I can’t kill no matter how hard I use it and I don’t have to hurt myself to get the water out of the brush. I purchased this set (not from this merchant), being wooed by a bigger pen with a variety of tips. Unfortunately, the tips soon fell apart, the water either came out in a waterfall or not at all and I had to squeeze the pen so hard to get the water out, it would break my painting rhythm. Although the Pentel brand is a bit pricier and looks smaller, the brushes last, they’re easy to use with an even water flow per squeeze and surprisingly hold more water than the larger brushes. My favorite, most versatile tip is the medium round, it gives me a broad stroke down to a fine line. I can’t do without this brush and carry one everywhere, even in my everyday purse. Just a side note-if you’re flying and taking this pen with you, make sure you have emptied it of all water or TSA will confiscate! Purchase both Pentel individual brushes and sets here.
  6. Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen
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    There are no limits to the love I have for this pen. It’s super black, versatile, comes in a variety of sizes and writes beautifully on any drawing or painting surface. When I’m out hiking, I use it to make quick sketches, write field notes, add depth to my pencil sketches and details to my watercolor sketches. I have the extra small, small and fine point pens and use them all in the studio, but always have the small size in my pack. Read this post for more about this pen and to see a series of drawings I did with it. These pens are sold individually at most art and craft stores and online, but I found a nice assorted nib 4 pen set here and a mega set with all kinds of interesting nibs here.
  7. Eberhard Faber Design Ebony Pencil 6325
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    I love drawing with pencil, I could do it for days. The problem is that it takes me about that long to draw anything because I use so many different kinds of pencils and leads, constantly switching around to get the right value. Unfortunately, I can’t bring them all with me in my pack, so this pencil is a great substitute for many of those pencils. It’s hard enough at the tip for fine line and soft enough to achieve a variety of values, from very dark to very light. The best part about it is it’s ultra velvety smoothness, I’ve never seen or felt anything quite like it. The smoothness enables me to draw in many smooth layers without annoying skips and dark spots. It must be kept sharp to achieve fine line, so instead of ruining my pack with a messy sharpener that takes up space, I use my trusty pink pocket knife every hiker girl should have and the pencil elements go back to the earth from whence they came. Unfortunately, these pencils have been discontinued but they are available from a variety of Marketplace and Ebay sellers if you’re patient and search. I found a good article that mentions other alternatives to this awesome pencil-I haven’t used any of the pencils mentioned in the article but there are substantial reviews to read for most of them.

I hope that this article was helpful and introduced you to some products you may not have been aware of before reading. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Please let me know what your favorite portable materials are, I’m always looking for new products to try.

Stay tuned for my next post which offers 3 Essential Questions to ask yourself when critiquing art, either your own or another artist’s work. When I was a professor at Tyler, these three questions helped simplify critique and went beyond the typical critique discussions to analyzing the overall impact of the work and what compels the viewer to respond to one work over another. Whether you are a professional artist or a beginner, this article will help you determine what makes an interesting work of art. See you soon.

Hikes for Artists, Part Deux

If you’re like me, you don’t plan vacations, you plan Inspir-cations and mini self-made residencies to inspire your work. This list of 10 amazing hikes from me and some of my amazing artist friends will give you some ideas for places to go and things to do this summer.

If Part 1 of this Hikes For Artists series brought you some inspiration, this week is sure to do the same with amazing art and images of inspiring hikes hand picked just for artists. If you’re like me, you don’t plan vacations, you plan Inspir-cations and mini self-made residencies to inspire your work. This list of 10 amazing hikes from me and some of my amazing artist friends will give you some ideas for places to go and things to do this summer.

  1. Lorraine GlessnerHike Location: Cohab Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  2. You can probably sense a theme that Utah is likely my favorite hiking destination and you would be right! This hike was also introduced to me by artist friend Jeff Juhlin in my favorite National Park of Capitol Reef. Its only about 3 miles out and back and you really don’t have to do the whole thing to experience it’s wonderfulness, but those who do will have the pleasure of a dramatic overlook (pictured above). I should mention that this hike and the park itself is not just for painters-photographers, writers, musicians and especially sculptors will all find inspiration here-I have a suspicion that Richard Serra must visit this park often.
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  4. The park itself is unusual, the terrain and land forms are literally like nowhere else on earth, but this hike is a stand-out even here-it’s like an abridged version of many areas of the part all in one place. Jeff and I took our Desert Artist Retreat here last year and even though it was a drizzly day, there was so much to see and sketch, one could do this hike a thousand times and not see it the same way twice. I have literally taken thousands of photos here, these photos being the ones I reach for most often when making my photo montages and digital drawings for painting inspiration-one of these is pictured above. Unusual colors in the earth, lichen and foliage from green-gold to salmon-peach-orange to rich creamy gold, textures, swirls, pocks, painted and sculpted rock faces and many layered surfaces abound on this hike. Being in the canyon offers a hushed, almost eery quiet while you’re surrounded by windswept trees, black lava rock and otherworldly scenes around every corner. Wind, water, time, wildlife and humans have sculpted this unusual place. The history of the canyon is quite interesting and you can almost feel the energy of the spirits of the Mormon settlers who resided here. Unlike my favorite hike I described in Part 1, this hike is well traveled, but there are many hideaways carved into the rocks where you can sit and draw, meditate or just look around for hours undisturbed.

2. Linda Celestian

Hike Location: Graffiti Pier, Philadelphia, PA

I live 30 minutes outside Philadelphia in North Wilmington. My husband maps out a new adventure for our hiking group every Sunday. On a recent hike we parked for free at the Sugarhouse Casino hiked to Graffiti Pier and then down Frankford Avenue to form a loop of around 4-5 miles.

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There’s something exciting about going slightly off the beaten path and exploring a place that’s a little gritty and edgy. I love the exuberant colors and layering of different styles that cover every surface at Graffiti Pier-even the trees-you feel like you’re inhabiting an abstract painting. It’s like a museum of street art that is free to the public and constantly evolving as new artists leave their marks. From the end of the pier there’s a great view of the city. We ended the hike strolling through burgeoning Fishtown sampling coffee, beer, bagels and more street art at every turn.

3. Laura Moriarty

Hike Location: Baer Art Center, a beautiful seaside horse farm in Northwestern Iceland

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My favorite walk followed well-worn tractor trails around the farm that eventually came to a black sand beach. From the beach I somehow made my way into these vast, deep bands of loosely piled, moss and lichen covered stones that go on for as far as the eye can see. Walking into them was not easy on the ankles. An immense, otherworldly-looking Cape jutting out of the sea was the punctuation point at the end of my trail.

 

4. Rebecca Siemering

Hike Location: Morro Bay, CA. Black Hill is the end of a string of mountains and trails of extinct volcanoes. Fleming Loop from Las Tunas Road, to the Powerline Trial and then the Carmel Loops to the top.

When I was living in Morro Bay, I was living with my Aunt Joanne Hand, a weaver, for an internship. I worked on various looms then, however,  I do not weave as much today.  I am a fiber artist partly because I could see making a life and living pursuing art. I worked in the bookstore with my aunt by day, wove on my days off and at night.

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This hike can be taken off of Las Tunas Road in Morro Bay, CA or many other roads on the edge of town. In the late afternoon, I would hike up this small mountain or take a long walk down to the bay by Morro Rock. You can walk through the dunes full of jackrabbits and sand dollars. When walking up, the trail is filled with brush, scraggy pines, sometimes you see evidence of Chumash Indian caches. At the very top is such a treat. Looking one way, you see all of the ocean and the bird estuary below with cranes. Looking the other way, you can see back to the whole mountain range. If you are lucky, sometimes there is fog and it looks like it is just you in the clouds with the sun. Dress for all types of weather and in layers, the Bay is cold. However, ten miles inland in San Luis Obispo you are wearing shorts.

Photo Credit: Jenn Moore, Jenn Moore, Henry Hamm, Joey Gonzalez

5. Teri Bevelacqua

Hike Location: Olympic National Park, Hike to Toleak Point from Third Beach, just west of Forks Washington. Best done mid-week to avoid a crowd.

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It’s the kind of place you run away to. Part of the hike is on the beach and part is through the forest on the headlands-it’s beautiful and peaceful. The forest is old and has wonderful sight lines not common inland. The beaches are wild and remote with spectacular views- tide pools abound at low tide chock full of sea life and the ocean in many moods. Haystacks, private coves and much wild life on this hike. I’ve had many “Wild Kingdom” moments out there with orcas, hunting seals, eagles and hunting seals.  

Many, many thanks to Arden Bendler-Browning, Bridgette Guerzon-Mills, Dietlind Vander Schaaf, Jeffrey Hirst, Laura Moriarty, Linda Celestian, Rebecca Siemering and Teri Bevelacqua for taking the time to share with us their favorite hikes. I’m so grateful to all of them and to you for reading.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. I would like to make artist hikes/inspiring vacations a regular part of this blog, so please email me or leave a comment if you would like to share your favorite inspiring places in a future post.

Stay tuned for my next post still focused on summer and Inspir-cations, in which I will share with you my favorite portable art materials. I break down what is really necessary for me to take on the trail and in my suitcase when I travel. Even if you don’t hike or carry a backpack, anyone who travels away from home or even just commutes to work will find this post helpful. In the meantime, enjoy the lovely spring air!!

Hikes For Artists, Part 1

Looking for some painting inspiration this summer? Some of my artist friends and I share some of our most inspiring places along with the art inspired from having been there.

According to the calendar, spring has sprung, although one would never know it here in the Northeast. With this interminable winter we’ve been having here in Philly, I’m just itching to get out and do some hiking. I feel absolutely stifled when I can’t get out and immerse myself in nature’s inspiration and it shows in my work when I haven’t been outside for a while. One of my favorite quotes by Matisse suggests that no matter what kind of work one makes, nature is always filtered somehow through the artists mind…An artist must possess nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.

The main source of inspiration for my paintings is from photographing and/or plein air sketching while on long hikes. I always like to explore at least one new place per year and usually plan extra days around my summer workshop teaching schedule to hike the area I’m teaching or I plan vacations around an inspiration hike. I was curious if other artists did this and apparently many of you do, so I decided to gather a few willing participants to write about their favorite inspiring places. Even if you don’t enjoy hiking, many of these places are drivable or just looking at the photos in this article, the art inspired by it and the artist’s web sites is inspiration decadence.

  1. Lorraine GlessnerHike Location: ‘The Knolls’ Teasdale, Utah

    I have so many favorite hikes, it was difficult to narrow it down. I chose ‘The Knolls’ (pictured the top of this article), the name granted by artist friend, Jeff Juhlin, who introduced it to me a couple of years ago and inspired by the odd earth forms that surround the area. It’s located just outside of the Dixie National Forest entry in Teasdale, Utah. Jeff and I have taken Our Desert Artist Retreat to The Knolls, but other than that, I have never seen another soul on the trail-all you hear is the wind and your own breathing.

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    The images I’ve shared below were taken on a cloudy day and even so, the earth shone a brilliant rust/red/orange/pink. To say the terrain is other worldly is an understatement, I have literally never seen anything like this place except in a Star Trek episode. The colors, earth, rock, trees, brush, flora all wind whipped into fascinating twisted, sculpted forms that keep me interested for hours. I hiked there alone on a stormy day last August and for many hours I climbed, photographed, sketched and wrote. I then went home and made some digital drawings from some of my photographs (one pictured above). Here is an excerpt from my journal that day…Rocks that grow out of the ground, trees growing out of rocks, rocks that seem to have teeth and fallen branches that look like bones. I keep trying to find a sound, but there is absolutely nothing to hear. This place defies all logic, but I never want to leave its magic.


2. Arden Bendler Browning

Hike Location: Drive-By’s in Australia

As I write this, I am traveling by motorhome with my partner and three daughters all around Australia.  As we drive, I paint while observing the landscape morphing through the windshield and out my side windows.  I have also revisited drawings made while outside and from window views of Sydney, hikes in Maui, and riding through the Sydney highways – I add layers from different locations and combine them together into one image.

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My previous road trip out west from Philadelphia resulted in numerous sketches made in this way (primarily watercolor and gouache on Yupo), and then large paintings were made back in my studio as I looked at the thousands of photographs from my trip, held in my hand as I made marks on my panels.
The drives, moreso than the hikes, tend to be my inspiration.  I am interested in conveying the yearning to take everything in, to be everywhere all at once, yet also considering the awareness that it is an absurd impossibility promoted by our own constructs.  To see everything means to miss something else – be that the slower paced time spent in one place,  the elimination of another route altogether, or simply existing more on the physical present moment This seems to echo the prevalent pace of contemporary life in the digital age… We are convinced that anything and everything is possible, if we just decide to do it.  Things are rarely the way we envision them, and real time of quite a different thing than a digital feed.  Additionally, I’m shutting out other aspects of my ordinary daily reality in order to move around the world.
During my current road trip, we drove the infamous Eyre highway across the barren Nullarbor plain.  The Nullarbor contains the longest straightest section of road in the world and is a vast flat terrain with zero trees.  There are very few settlements – just a few roadhouses and tiny towns many miles apart.  I have imagined this landscape while looking at maps for years, and was surprised by its beauty and drama.  It never
I painted this watercolor and gouache painting on a round sheet of handmade watercolor paper during the three days it took us to drive the main sections of the highway, from Port Augusta in South Australia to Norseman in Western Australia.  I layered and layered marks in response to the changes in the roadway and the surrounding terrain… Far more changes and detail than I could have imagined.  I kept thinking it was done, only to see that it wasn’t, and became entranced with the changes in what I was noticing along the way: the shadows of clouds moving over the road ahead, the random patches of red earth, the range of color in the immensely vast horizon.  I worked on this painting for hours throughout each of the three days we traveled on this lonely, intense road.
I’m excited to experiment with printmaking and animation when I get back to my studio, along with large paintings.

 

3. Bridgette Guerzon Mills

Hike Location: Ruby Beach and Second Beach, along the northwest Pacific coast of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula

As a naturalist and outdoor enthusiast, I have hiked in many different areas around the United States. My most favorite hikes are these two hikes through the forest down to the wild beaches of the Pacific Northwest.

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Ruby Beach trail is very easy, not really a hike as it is only .25 miles through the woods, but it can give you a taste of the wild Olympic coast. The more rigorous hike, but also a very do-able day hike, Second Beach is further south and is a 4 mile round trip from the trailhead. The Second Beach hike was my first hike to the Pacific Ocean and was eye-opening for me- someone who grew up on the east coast and spent childhood summers playing games and getting funnel cake on the boardwalks by the Atlantic Ocean among throngs of bikini clad people. The trail took me by tall Sitka spruce and a descent down to the log-strewn beach. As I got closer to the beach, the trees thinned out and I caught sight of the iconic offshore sea stacks. When I emerged from the forest and was hit by the blustery wind, I just stood in awe of such wild beauty and the gray on gray of the seascape and sky. I had never been in such a place and it was an encounter that I will never forget and has inspired my art over and over again- not just the actual physical beauty, but the feeling of wild, of longing, and of a very strong sense of place.

 

4. Dietlind Vander Schaaf

Hike Location: Tomales Point Trail, located at the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore in California

Tomales Point is a beautiful space to see tule elk, birds of all kinds, and wildflowers. The hike is just shy of 10 miles roundtrip and follows the ridge crest of a narrow peninsula, offering panoramic views of Tomales Bay and Bolinas Ridge to the east, Bodega Bay to the north, and the coastline of the Point Reyes Peninsula, which stretches to the south. The parking lot is located at the historic Pierce Point Ranch, a remnant of the area’s early dairy ranching days. I have walked this trail a dozen times or so, but only made it to the end and back twice, both times with my friend Paul–once before I left San Francisco to move back to Maine, and then again last year. 

dietlindIn Winter I Found Quiet

It’s a bit of a drive to get to the remote trailhead at the northern-most end of the Point Reyes peninsula, past working dairy farms and long stretches of national seashore. Sometimes when I’ve been on the trail, the fog was thick, obscuring views of the sea, but mostly it’s clear and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see tule elk, a subspecies of elk found only in California. Conservation measures in the 70s have brought a dwindling population of wild tule elk back up to nearly 4,000.
Because there are few to no trees on this hike, it reminds me of the years I worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club in the huts, specifically the times I found myself hiking above the tree line between peaks. The eye can travel far on this trail–you get what I think of as the long view and I appreciate the sense of perspective this affords me.
When we reached the tip last February, Paul and I could see immediately that a large part of the cliff we had followed years before had fallen steeply to the sea below. There was no longer an easy scramble down rocks to the water’s edge. For some reason that felt appropriate, though it also made me a bit nostalgic, to think that where I had walked prior literally no longer existed.
It feels like something significant to complete this hike. I think of this trail as a place of pilgrimage, something sacred and infinitely beautiful, probably even more so now that I live in Maine and it is no longer a few hours drive from my apartment in San Francisco.

 

5. Jeffrey Hirst

Hike Location: Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin, Chimney Rock with elk reserve

I love to hike near water and when living in the Bay Area enjoyed visiting Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin for hiking and just to soak in the beauty.

Hirst.Red Aperture

The trail winds back and forth over the peninsula with spectacular views of Marin and the Pacific. There also is an elk reserve on the peninsula and it always seemed odd to me seeing the elk in that location. The terrain on Point Reyes is grassy with rocks and it’s a fairly easy hike and quite an adventure as you head out on the peninsula. While I don’t use the imagery in my work, it’s a great place to vacate and recharge your senses. Interestingly, I get a similar meditative feeling when hiking along Lake Michigan in Chicago, where I now live.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article and I am so grateful to my artist friends who participated in writing it, thanks so much! As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. I would like to make artist hikes/inspiring vacations a regular part of this blog, so please email me or leave a comment if you would like to share your favorite inspiring places in a future post.

Stay tuned for more amazing artist hike ideas in part two of this series. In the meantime, get out and breath the air.