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

5 More Essential Portable Art Materials

Because of my busy workshop schedule and love of hiking, I’m totally into the portability and versatility of my art materials. In this article, I share with you 5 of my favorites.

Summer is upon us, vacation plans have been laid and new memories to be journaled, drafted, sketched and painted are all in the near future. Because of my busy workshop schedule and love of hiking, I’m totally into the portability and versatility of my favorite art materials. I also like to keep things very simple while traveling so as to not add a lot of weight to my pack as well as limit myself to only a few art materials- I’m a firm believer that restrictions breed creativity.

Even if you aren’t a traveler, but perhaps an artist short on time, having portable, lightweight, inexpensive and versatile art materials on hand will offer you more opportunities to make art, even if it’s just while in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. Also, be sure to read 7 Essential Portable Art Materials, for additional add-ons to your travel bag.

To purchase these materials, click on the title link, which will take you directly to the product in my Portable Art Supplies Amazon shop. I have also included some pics of things I’ve made using each material. Most are sketches on the road or on the trail- they’re not masterpieces, but give you a good idea of what each product can do. Also, because of the portability and convenience factor, I focus on water media only in this article.

  • MISULOVE Watercolor Paint Set This folding, fairly lightweight paint set is made to be portable and does not disappoint. I have many portable watercolor sets that were expensive and run out of color too quickly. I’ve been using this one heavily for about 6 months and I’m nowhere near running out of color. With those expensive sets, I was limited on color and always seemed to be wanting a color not included in the set. As you can see, this set offers many colors to choose from and they paint very bright and very rich with an excellent range of translucency depending on how much water is used. The folding aspect of the set allows me to hold it in one hand while painting in the other for those times where there is just no room to spread out. Last, my water brush fits snugly in the slot so that I’m never scrambling to find it in the black hole of my back pack. I have the 42 set of colors, but it also comes in 18, 25 and 33 color sets, which are available through sellers other than Amazon. The mini paintings pictured below were all made en plein air with this set.
  • Meeden Watercolor Tin I love working with gouache-especially the white, which I add to everything. The tubes can be heavy to carry around, so I squirt a little color into the half pans in this tin and away I go. The paint does eventually dry, but gouache can be revived with a little water so it’s ok. These tin boxes are lightweight, include a mixing tray and the half pans are removable for easy cleaning. The paintings below were all made with dried gouache in my portable tin on watercolor block.

Hahnemühle Watercolor Book Anyone who has worked with Hahnemühle papers knows they are quality. I had always worked on a watercolor block, which I still do, but the A6 size of this book and the landscape orientation of it is just perfection for me. The paper is smooth and just lovingly accepts any water or drawing media I put in contact with it. While hiking, I often paint and then quickly run off to the next painting spot with damp pages. The band closure keeps the book closed and allows the pages to dry flat. This book also comes in an A5 landscape size, which is just slightly too large and heavy for me, but may be a more suitable size for others.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen in Black A recent workshop student of mine introduced me to these pens and I’m totally hooked! Its watercolor in a pen with a fine and broad sized brush and water-based ink that will dilute and blend with water. I love this pen for its versatility and if I’m really limited for space in my pack, it’s all I really need. These pens come in many colors and I’ve ordered a few and found that the blacks and darker colors tend to blend a bit better than the lighter ones. Also good to note is I’ve been told that the inks will eventually fade, which is just heartbreaking. Drawings made with these pens should be kept locked away in your sketchbook away from light.

  • Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Cushion It’s not an art material, but it’s definitely an essential, especially for aging bodies. I’m still in ok shape, but I can no longer sit on a rock for an hour and paint without feeling a bit cramped. This cushion folds to a neat bundle and is so lightweight you barely feel it in your pack. It’s also thermal and will protect your bottom from cold and moisture. I love it so much, I also got one for my car!

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

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.

Encaustic PaintSmash: Basic Scraping Methods

After my last PaintSmash How-To explaining application of encaustic paint with your flashing brushes, you likely think I’ve gone completely mad, creating hot mess paintings with no rhyme or reason….maybe…but my madness is only temporary. Now I’m going to show you how to reel it back in, gain control of the madness and pull an interesting composition out of those colorful layers using several tools and methods.

After my last PaintSmash How-To explaining application of encaustic paint with your flashing brushes, you likely think I’ve gone completely mad, creating hot mess paintings with no rhyme or reason….maybe…but my madness is only temporary. Now I’m going to show you how to reel it back in, gain control of the madness and pull an interesting composition out of those colorful layers using several tools and methods. For a little review, 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.

Follow the methods below to pull out, reveal and carve a composition. Use a combination of all of the methods and tools described below. Look for contrasts; solid, quieter areas of color next to busier areas, complimentary color combinations, grays, whites and earth tones next to brighter areas of color. Stay tuned for my next blog post in which I delve into composition a bit further.

What You Need (Visit this post for a comprehensive explanation of the razor blade, clay scraper and double-sided scraper tool)

  • Razor Blade
  • Clay Scraper
  • Double Sided Scraper Tool
  • An Encaustic Painting Preferably on wood with at least 8-15 layers of paint.
  • Iwatani Torch and/or heat gun
  • Time & Patience Yoga breathing, Zen

Methods (Go to my IGTV channel or to my new YouTube Channel to watch me begin to transform a chunky hot mess, PaintSmashed painting using the techniques below) Watch this video to see me demonstrate scraping using all three tools I discuss in the last blog post.

  1. Cold Scrape Best done at the start of your studio day before heating the board and by using the razor blade as your main tool. Scrape slowly without digging or gauging, taking off thin layers, little by little. Observe the subtle changes taking place on the surface of your painting. This method requires lots of patience, do not rush the process, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
  2. Warm Scrape Your surface should be warm, tepid, NOT HOT, which may cause unwanted smearing and smushing. Slightly warm the surface with your heat gun or torch and scrape slowly without digging using the clay scraper or razor blade.
  3. Soft Scrape Self explanatory, but must be mentioned and must be practiced. Most people start scraping way too aggressively and way too hot. Make sure you’re not overheating and if you find you’re taking too much off or gauging, practice lightening up your pressure.
  4. Hard Scrape This method is to be used only in the event that you want to remove lots of layers at once using the loop or Sculpture House tools. I usually do this in only one section of a painting when things get a bit too busy and I want to add a chunk of a solid color. This method can also be used when you want to completely scrape back or ‘murder’ one of your paintings.
  5. Carve Use the double sided scraper tool, needles and other pointy tools to incise and carve shapes into the layers. There is no limit to the fun you will have revealing the layers and shaping a composition by digging out lines, marks and carving shapes. Watch me carve out a form (short version) OR (long version) using the double sided scraper tool.