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

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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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