My 2018 Studio Resolutions, Part 2

Read the complete list of my 2018 Studio Resolutions so you can get started off on the right foot this year!

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I hope you all have been spending the last two weeks purchasing books, reading at least 30 minutes a day and drawing, drawing, drawing everyday! If you haven’t done so, please be sure to read Part 1 of this post, which includes the how and why these resolutions are so important to me and my guarantee that they will get you started on the right foot this year. Remember, they will only work if you give them a determined try.

  1. Studio notes every studio day I’ve mentioned in a few recent posts why reading about what interests you in your work is so important and directly related to reading is writing. It is imperative that an artist write well! After all, we have to write statements, biographies, exhibition and teaching proposals, grant and residency applications, catchy snippets on social media, BLOGS..the list goes on. The only way to get better at writing is to practice writing. Remember Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages? I learned to love writing by making this a part of my practice way back in the 90’s and then fell in love with writing again in graduate school while writing my thesis. Reading is a huge help in sharpening writing skills, but you also have to put pen to paper and write your own words as well. What better way to do that than writing about your work every studio day in a short paragraph. I call it my Studio Log–it’s basically a short diary entry, (written in sentence and paragraph form with an actual pen on paper), that explains what you did that day in the studio-what you made, your process and how it turned out. Begin each entry with the date and how many hours you spent in the studio and add up those hours every week-this helps you track your progress and creates a feeling of accomplishment. Please note that while I know bullet journaling has become a very popular thing and it’s totally fun, we are working toward sharpening our writing skills with these entries, so you  must write in complete sentences in paragraph form. Writing in this way helps you to organize your thoughts, put things into proper perspective and see your accomplishments in writing. It’s also important to note that actually writing in a designated book or sketchbook and not on the computer completes the connection between your thoughts and your hand, the computer is a third party that breaks that connection. Further elaborations on your log entry can include but are not limited to…Do you like what you did that day and why, Do you hate what you did and why, What thoughts surfaced from the subconscious while you were working, Did you make any changes of note to your process or thinking, What are you going to work on tomorrow, next week or next month and/or any other thing pertinent to you and your work that day. I rarely look back at my daily log entries, but when it’s time to write a statement or a proposal, I have a wealth of information right at my fingertips.
  2. Visually document every studio session Something we should all be doing in order to promote ourselves in a social media obsessed world. Even if you don’t contribute to social media, photographing what you do in the studio will accomplish two things…1. It will enable you to gain insight into your process and 2. You will be able to track your progress and achieve a sense of accomplishment.  Although you may choose to share these images , the purpose for collecting them is to see where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. If photographing while you work is distracting, just take a few photos of your work at the end of the work day to note progress. Or you may choose to do this at the beginning of the work day. Either way, it’s your studio photo journal and can be set up any way you wish. At the end of the week/month/year you have a collection of images that actually track your progress and this is so important for those times when we’re down on ourselves or feeling like we’re not doing enough. Even more elusive to us than a sense of progress is analyzing our process. We’re artists, we are visual people, we have to SEE things! Sometimes it’s not easy to see what is happening with the work until you look at from a different perspective -laying it flat or hanging it up. These photos offer many perspectives for viewing work, providing the opportunity to turn the image every which way, crop it, blow it up, etc . Observations made from these images can be shared in your studio log and used for social media posts, statements, proposals, etc. Understanding your process is an important part of knowing who you are as an artist, it sets you apart from everyone else, it’s defines you and helps shape how you and others view your work. More than anything else you can do to document your studio work, photographs give you insight into that process.While the studio log you’re keeping is helping to organize your thoughts and progress, keeping photo documentation will help you visualize this progress.
  3. Work toward a studio hours goal every week Your studio log entry requires that you log in your studio hours for the day and then add them up at the end of the week. This is yet another way to track your progress to make sure you’re meeting your studio goals. This was the first resolution I made to my list when I first started doing this in 2015 and I simply set a workable goal for a range of weekly hours I could get to into the studio. Everyone is going to have different hours due to addtional work and life responsibilities, so the key to achieving your weekly goals is making them feasible as well as slightly challenging. In 2015, I was teaching 2 days a week at Tyler School of Art, plus at least one day to prep for teaching. My goal for the studio was to do 25-30 hours a week with 25 being the minimum and 30 being the maximum (with plus or minus a few on both). I arrived at this number by creating a weekly calendar and crossing out the days and hours that I was scheduled for other things like teaching, paperwork, appointments, etc. I then began to fill in the open hours of each day with hours I could feasibly work in the studio and added them up. Once you arrive at a schedule and weekly goal, sign it and hang it up on your studio door or on the fridge, wherever you can see it that it will remind you of the promise you made to yourself. I also made rules as to what activities would fall under studio hours and again, your rules will be different. At first I was very strict and said that only activities contributing to making actual work could count toward my hours. I eased up after realizing that there are so many things I do that contribute to the making of my work-reading, drawing, photo research, even cleaning the studio counts! Give yourself at least 2 months to implement this schedule and if you find you were egregiously off in your hourly estimates, don’t be afraid to adjust the schedule. It is better to make a slight adjustment then to give up altogether due to frustration or feeling you have failed.
  4. Walk outside 15-30 minutes everyday I just added this resolution this year and I’m only doing so-so at achieving it due to the extreme cold we’ve had this winter…but I’m working on it! In the spring, summer and fall I walk everywhere I can and make a point of walking every night after dinner, rain or shine and I notice a significant change in my outlook and productivity. I have always known I’m just ‘better’ in the warmer weather and there are many factors that contribute to this, but I’m sure a huge part of it is walking and hiking. You may already know that there is much research to support a direct correlation to walking and boosted creativity, but just in case you don’t, this article is a good read. Another benefit to walking is the opportunity to snap photos of anything along the way that strikes your fancy, which can then be called ‘photo research’, which can then count toward your studio hours! The image at the top of this post is one of those images of mine taken on a walk on the dunes in Provincetown. So….Walk, get in shape, boost creativity, add to your studio hours…win, win, win, WIN!

By now you may have already forgotten your original 2018 New Year’s Resolutions, so you can now try these! Please feel free to post in the comments section (comments are now located upper left of this post), I would love the hear what you do to keep your studio practice alive and if any of my ideas have resonated with you. Remember, they are designed to work together with Part 1, so if you try them, please make sure to come back and post about your experience.

Stay tuned for my next post on Mind Mapping for Artists. What if you get to the studio and don’t know what to make or you have a whole body of work ready to go out in the world but you don’t know what it’s about? What if you don’t know what books to get or what subjects are pertinent to you or your work? Mind Mapping will help you narrow this all down. See you soon!

My 2018 Studio Resolutions, Part 1

I must confess that in the past I was never a New Year’s Resolution maker, I always thought it was kind of a silly thing to do. I tried many times and usually by March, my resolution to keep a diary, stop eating chocolate and lose 10 pounds was long forgotten. My resolution cynicism was put to rest, however, when I needed to either get back in the studio or give up being an artist for good.

It’s so cold and gray here in Philly in January, I just want to hide under the covers and hibernate. It’s hardly a time to think of new beginnings and fresh starts, but when the calendar page turns at the end of the year, something in my mind shifts. Suddenly, I’m full of new thoughts and hopes for making strides toward bigger and better things. I must confess that in the past I was never a New Year’s Resolution maker, I always thought it was kind of a silly thing to do. I tried many times and usually by March, my resolution to keep a diary, stop eating chocolate and lose 10 pounds was long forgotten. My resolution cynicism was put to rest, however, when I needed to either get back in the studio or give up being an artist for good.
If you have been reading this blog, you know that I went through a long studio slump due to personal troubles and grief (read this post for more about how I began to get out of that slump). In order to get back in there and make work, there were a few actions I needed to take. The first thing to do was to make the commitment to be a professional artist again. Even in my slump I still considered myself to be a professional artist, but I wasn’t acting like a professional. An artist who isn’t making art is not an artist at all and once the studio habit was broken, my confidence was shaken. Once I learned to quiet those confidence shaking voices, I could make the all important choice to try again.
Next, I applied for a residency (read this post if you are considering applying for a residency). A residency would get me out of my usual space where I would feel free to work, experiment and build back my studio discipline without the trappings and chores of being at home. The residency was the best decision I could make and it accomplished all I needed it to do-but once home, now what? A few months passed and suddenly it was January, 2015 and what better time to make my new commitments solid by creating a list of New Year Studio Resolutions.
To write this list, I had to return to my graduate school curriculum when my artist discipline had truly developed. The following list is based on the five daily must-do’s that I had to complete in order for me to get my degree and be successful after graduation. My complete list also includes weekly, monthly, and annual goals that support both the studio and business, but I’m just focusing on daily studio tasks here. It’s important to note that even though this is a ‘daily’ list, the tasks don’t have to be done everyday, just each day that you are in the studio (with the exception of drawing, that is). For me, studio days are 5-6 days per week, so adjust your list according to what is feasible for you. I have shared this list with graduate students, colleagues, workshop participants, artist friends, basically any artist who is struggling. I guarantee if you employ these basic tenets, your studio practice will improve, your work will expand conceptually and your production will grow exponentially. How many guarantees are there in life? Not many. Try it, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
  1. Read 30-60 minutes every studio day The reading I’m referring to here is not the latest novel, it is research relevant to the work you’re doing in the studio. Read #4 of this post and you will see why I feel that not reading enough is one of the top ten biggest mistakes of my artist career. Reading and research is imperative for professionals of every discipline in order to stay on top of what’s going on in their field. For artists, part of that research is the work itself, of course, but we have to feed our work cognitively and conceptually.  Take a look at what I’m reading this year in the image at the top of this article. I have a pile of books that pertain to my studio work and a pile for teaching and I revise both piles at the beginning of every year. I usually have one studio book, one teaching book and one inspiration book (with pictures) all going at once. I only read these books on my studio days because I have to have fun sometimes too! I keep track of the books I finish and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to see a long list at the end of each year. I also time my reading with the timer on my phone to minimum 30 minutes and maximum 60 minutes according to how much time I have that day to do it. My mind usually wanders, so I focus on the fact that for that short 30 minutes all I have to worry about is what I’m reading. Don’t know what to read or what your work is ‘about’ yet? No worries, I’ll cover how you can figure that out in in my second blog post next month.
  2. Draw 15-30 minutes every day No, that is not a typo, I didn’t forget to write ‘studio’ in there..you should be drawing every day, whether you’re in the studio or not. Before you stop reading because you think you can’t draw, please note that a drawing can be anything you want it to be. Also note, that these drawings are for your eyes only, unless you choose to share. They can be of any subject, made in any medium on any kind of media and completed any time and anywhere-their purpose is to get your creative juices flowing. I remember reading somewhere that there is a brain/body connection to movement and creativity and that a physiological change takes place in the brain when you move. You must move the parts of your body that you use to paint so as to create a rhythm that the creative parts of your brain will recognize. Starting to paint without some kind of warm-up exercise is like starting to run without stretching-you can’t start cold, you’ll hurt yourself! The same thing applies to painting. While I don’t go to the gym everyday, I do get up and stretch my body with short yoga exercises. If I didn’t, my body would be stiff within a short time. Drawing works as ‘creative stretching’ for me. If I don’t do my minimum 15 minutes, I’m ‘stiff’ and it takes me twice as long to get going in the studio. Get a small sketch pad-one that fits in your bag, take it with you everywhere and start to mark it up. I guarantee you that by drawing a short 15 minutes a day, your work and mindset regarding your work will improve drastically. If you’re still having issues with drawing everyday, I’ll share some easy drawing exercises in the next few blog posts that will get you started. Last, use that timer for the same reasons as above!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Studio Resolutions in my next blog post. It goes without saying that this list is only helpful if you actually commit to or RESOLVE to doing it. Do what is comfortable for you and what will fit into your life-do not over extend or you will end up in frustration. Last, you will need an artist friend, mentor or coach who will help to keep you accountable and moving forward. I would love to work with you to create a personalized list of resolutions just for you and help you to keep them. Please visit the mentor page on my web site to see what I can offer you.

See you back here in February!

 

10 Mistakes I Made as an Artist, Pt 2

10 Mistakes I Made as as Artist, Part 2

Thank you for being so patient, I know you’ve all been on pins and needles waiting for Part 2 of my list list of artist mistakes. Please be sure to read Part 1 of this post, which includes a brief introduction so you know what this list is all about. This list could go on and on, so I may be making it a routine end of year post.

In my first post, I invite you all to feel free to add to the list of mistakes by including your own in the comments, but for some reason the comments section is missing from that post! I made sure the comments box was checked on this post, so again, please feel free to add to the discussion. And remember, one of the main reasons we are here on earth is to make mistakes, learn from them and move forward to share our knowledge with others. Take it from me, a serial mistake maker, sometimes we will make the same mistakes again and again. Even so, we do eventually learn from them.

  1. Not painting enough/not having enough work. When I retired from adjunct teaching last year, I thought my time in the studio would be limitless and although I still never seem to have enough, it has improved tremendously. Getting into the studio first and then getting in there enough is the most common problem that many workshop participants share with me and even though my situation has now improved, I know this frustrating experience very well. When I first started to consider myself an artist, I thought I was very disciplined, but I really wasn’t. Like most of us, I had always balanced my art career with other part or full time jobs. Unfortunately, my studio time took a back seat to jobs and other life responsibilities. My lack of studio discipline became glaringly apparent during my first semester in grad school when I almost failed out due to lack of work for my review (eesh). Even though, I learned the hard way how to make time for the studio then, my studio discipline began to deteriorate when I graduated and started teaching. I loved teaching but I had so much to learn about doing it that I threw everything I had into preparing for my classes. I had been spending all of my studio time making samples for teaching that I had made very little to no work of my own. It was after my second year of teaching that my department head told me I needed to start exhibiting or lose my job. It was then that I really set my focus on my studio work. It wasn’t that everything else took a back seat, but the studio took precedent. I began saying NO to many social activities, I let the house get messy and later, hired someone to help me clean, let the laundry go a little longer, let the phone ring, etc. It has been an ongoing project to balance my studio work with all the other ‘stuff’, but I have figured out how to make it work. I first set myself a strict schedule and actually wrote it out, signed it and posted it. It really helps to write it out and sign it like a real contract. Next, I started my ‘studio log’; a journal where I jot down the date, in/out time and what I accomplished in the studio. I rarely look at this log, but just like the schedule, it helps to write it out on paper. I also had to sacrifice a lot in terms of friends, etc. but what is a little sacrifice when you’re doing the work you were meant to do? It’s not really a sacrifice at all and the people who care about you will totally understand. The ones who don’t..well, who needs them around anyway? There are millions of books and articles about creating boundaries and saying no, but a really fun, easy read specifically for creatives is Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod. A great article called Creative People Say No by Kevin Ashton has been passed around extensively. Last, a super fun blog post by Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist, shares humorous ‘NO’ letters by famous creatives. Feel free to share your favorite books and articles on this this subject in the comments section.
  2. Not saying no to poor opportunities. This is sort of a continuation to the last list item, but slightly different. When I graduated from grad school I made a pact with myself that I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way. For emerging artists, I still believe that every opportunity no matter how ‘small’ it seems, may lead to something bigger and it almost always does. You never know who is going to see your show, your talk, your article, etc., and how that could lead to more amazing things. Try to think of an opportunity as a tree with extensions of roots, branches, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit and you can’t lose. However, as I cross the threshold from emerging to mid-career, I have found that there is a dark side to saying yes to every opportunity and I have learned to weigh my opportunities and appropriately say no to those I feel may not bear fruit. I feel terribly guilty saying no, it brings about fears that once I close one door another will never open again, but that has yet to happen. For me, weighing opportunities always starts with my time and how much of it will be invested vs. my payment in terms of benefits. As I write that last sentence, I’m think it may appear selfish, but I’m older than I was, time is of the essence and it must be very considered in terms of business. Of course, one never knows how an opportunity will reap benefits-again, some of those ‘small’ opportunities do tend to pay back. For this reason, each opportunity is very carefully weighed, researched and deliberated over many days, sometimes weeks. I say no very rarely, but I’m proud to say that I have successfully mastered this simple word on a few occasions.
  3. Selling my work too low too long. Before Internet commerce really took hold, most artists and galleries only had web sites featuring their portfolios and it was rare to see pricing with those portfolios. This made it difficult to compare my prices with a wide range of art and artists and I also didn’t have the benefit of so many helpful blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. Instead, I relied on the advice of other artists, looking at pricing at galleries, art centers, shows, etc, but this was very limiting and a lot of my initial pricing was guess work. There is so much to consider when pricing and I’m not going to discuss formulas or even numbers because they vary so much from artist to artist. What I will say is that my pricing was so low when I started selling with a young gallery that on more than one occasion, my commission on the sale of multiple paintings averaged less than pricing on a print. My heart sank each time I received my check and did the math. By the time I started to make a name for myself and get into better galleries, 2008 reared it’s ugly head and I couldn’t raise my prices then, right? So they stayed pretty much the same for about 8 or 9 years and probably would still be the same if it wasn’t for a wonderful gallerist who kindly, but firmly told me my prices were way too low. This is why it’s so important to always pay attention to your pricing. Make your pricing a significant part of your annual business duties and create a schedule to review them and regularly raise them a certain percentage each time. If you’re looking for pricing advice, there is a ton of it out there, just google it. But make sure you’re reading from a reputable source…I like RedDot Blog for good artist advice, Alyson Stanfield’s Blog is excellent for many art related business topics and if you’re signed up as an artist on Saatchi, their newsletter has helpful selling advice.
  4. Not reading enough. As an artist juggling teaching, studio work and the business of making art, how does one have time to read? Like anything, we have to make time for it. I was such an avid reader when I was young. I constantly had a book in hand and never had to be prompted to settle down to read like other kids at school. In middle school, we had times during the day when the principal would announce over the loud speaker that it was time to drop everything going on in class and read for 30 minutes (I loved when this happened in gym class). So maybe I was a bit of a nerd, but I did love to read and still do. However, as I got older, went to college, started working many jobs-sometimes three at a time, reading became a thing I only did on vacation and eventually only sporadically or not at all. I would still visit libraries, sit on the floor and look at art books for hours, but sitting and reading a book cover to cover was a thing of the past. In my mid-thirties, I got accepted to grad school and had to read as part of my research and the world of reading opened for me once again. I discovered in school that reading is an integral part of my work as an artist, so I made it a habit to carve out a bit of studio time each day to do it. I have a stack of books and periodicals set aside, I set my timer for 30 minutes and settle in to my comfy chair to read. As my students will attest, I believe setting the timer is essential as it creates a beginning and an end, a window of time. For that 30 minutes you don’t have to worry or think about anything else but the task at hand. I know that 30 minutes of reading is nothing to most people, but you would be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a week if you do just a little bit a day. When I think about all the lost time I spent not reading, it only makes me more determined to read everything on my extensive Amazon wishlist. The more I read, the more informed, grounded and expanded my ideas become and the more interesting my work is to make as well as view.
  5. Not becoming a member of the art museum. My humble city of Philadelphia is a great city and we have many awesome museums, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art as one of the best. I have visited the PMA frequently since I was an 18 year old undergrad and have watched the museum grow from really good to truly great. Sometimes I just feel myself drawn to it’s quiet echo, its musty smell and the lovely gardens and river surroundings. Most of all, I’m drawn to the old collections of art and craft. I rarely visit the contemporary sections of the PMA simply because I don’t find much of it inspiring. I want to see color relationships, brush stroke, composition, etc. I want to learn from the Old Masters as they learned. I have many favorite sections and always choose just one to focus my attention per visit. I always bring a sketchbook, but I rarely sketch, most of the time I just sit on a bench for hours trying to absorb it all through my skin. It’s my refuge and a place I can go to consistently be inspired in a vast, quiet space. I sporadically had student memberships as an undergrad, in my late 20’s attending a Continuing Education Computer Course at Moore and again in my 30’s as a grad. It was only after grad school that I realized I couldn’t be without this membership and have consistently been a member since. Being a member not only allows me to visit as much as I want for free, but it also gives me the opportunity to attend lectures, tours, workshops and other events for free or at a discount. It’s like having my own giant house of art and inspiration! My membership also financially benefits the museum and therefore benefits me, so its a win/win. Truly, no artist should be without a museum membership-multiple museums if you can afford it. If you don’t have a local art museum, become a member of the one you frequent most and you’ll soon find yourself visiting and learning more than ever.

Coming up in 2018 is a big change for Art Bite Blog…because this blog has gained so much in popularity this year, I have decided to post twice a month next year. I realize this is nothing compared to what hard core bloggers do, but I truly love sharing and want to share more with you, however, I do need time to paint ; ) Next year, you can look forward to more art tips, demos, curated posts, inspiration and encouragement. To start the year off, January’s posts include my New Year’s Art Resolutions and a story I have only shared in bits and pieces about a few sad years I when I just couldn’t paint and how I got my groove back. I look forward to sharing my story with you.

Wishing you all the very best of this Holiday Season. Thank you so much for reading and supporting this blog, see you soon in 2018!

10 Mistakes I Made as an Artist, Pt 1

Unbelievably, the holidays are already upon us and with the holidays usually comes the inevitable time of reflection. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to write this post.

I am a podcast junkie, I’m always listening and gathering information on way too many subjects, most of them about art. One of my favorite podcasts is AHA (Artists Helping Artists) in which two artists, Leslie Saeta and various artist co-hosts, discuss topics dealing with just what the title suggests. No matter the topic, I always find something helpful and they always make me laugh. One of my favorite episodes is 10 mistakes each of them have made during their art careers and as I listened, I found myself making up my own list. Surprisingly, my list came out to be quite a bit different from theirs and I had so many mistakes I had to edit out a few to get back to 10! No worries, I kept the good ones 🙂 and my list is in no particular order. The best thing to keep in mind when reflecting on your mistakes is obviously that no matter how many times you make them, you still learn from them. Less obvious and a mantra I have to repeat to myself daily, is that without making these mistakes you wouldn’t have taken the path you did and you wouldn’t be the artist you are today. I’m sure as you read you’ll come up with a few of your own mistakes, please feel free to share them in the comments.

  1. Relying too much on a day job. Now that I am a retired assistant professor and selling my paintings and teaching workshops for a living, I couldn’t be happier. I spent waaaayy too much time thinking about doing what I knew would make me happiest and I realized I have done this many, many times throughout my working life. Too many jobs I have lingered at way too long while knowing that I should just do it already because no matter what, I will always land on my feet. I let fear creep in too many times, let the comfort of security lull me into a false contentment until I realized I was not content at all, I was miserable. It took me to age 49 to realize I was feeling bitter and resentful and I didn’t want to continue in that direction. It’s so true that when one door closes a window opens and I can expand on that by saying that the freshest, cleanest spring mountain air flows through that window and it just keeps you awash in it’s light when you’re doing what you were meant to do. If you’re worrying and waiting and finding yourself staring out from your cubicle wishing you were painting, the time to leave that job is now. Make a definitive plan and get the heck out of there, life is too short.
  2. Not acting on good ideas for new work. Have you ever found yourself making art in your head and then telling yourself the reasons why you shouldn’t actually make the art in your head? I so wish I had made so many of my really good ideas, but I allowed the negative voices in my head to talk me out of it only to find that years later someone else had made my idea and was getting recognition because of it!! I read somewhere that ideas can jump from one brain to the next and you need to act on the good ones or else they will move on to someone else.
  3. Not hiring people. I have a problem asking for help. There I said it. I should also add that I have a problem asking for help until it’s way too late and I’m up at 4am wiring paintings because I have a 7am shipping deadline. I am of the DIY mindset and because I have held so many jobs and acquired skills, I feel if I CAN do it, I SHOULD do it. Not true. One valuable lesson I learned this year is that just because I can do it, does not mean it is the most valuable use of my time. I SHOULD be in the studio making work and that is always the focus of the day. Of course there are many tasks keeping me away from the studio that must be done, but there are many things I could use assistance in doing. There are also those tasks that that I procrastinate doing because I don’t want to do them, don’t know how, etc. So I made a list of tasks that need doing and went about searching for quality people who could help with those tasks. Now this is a work in progress, but this year I have hired a catalog designer, a virtual assistant, a housekeeper and an accountant.
  4.  Not asking for advice. Like I said above, I have a hard time asking for help and that becomes even more difficult when it’s an intangible thing like advice that you can’t find in the yellow pages. Many, many times during my artist career I wasted a lot time going down the wrong path, procrastinating or not doing anything at all because I didn’t know what to do or whom I should ask. It wasn’t until graduate school 15 years ago when I was so overwhelmed I was forced to ask for advice or fail. It was there I learned that having a wide range of artist friends and speaking with them regularly is the best thing you can have in your life. I have artist friends that range from groups on Facebook to close buddies to accountability partners and we are always asking questions, exchanging advice and sharing information. I have several scheduled monthly calls to artist friends and sometimes I don’t even know I need advice until it comes up in one of these calls. It’s also great to have people to talk to who have been there, shared the same fears, feelings of rejection, etc. Most of us work in isolation, so sometimes it’s just good to know that you aren’t alone in having these feelings. Although we are all artists, we all have a varied path to how we’ve gotten there and how we persevere to stay there. Your artist friends are your best resource and I wish I had met them 20 years ago, it would have saved me so much anguish!!
  5. Feeling intimidated and ‘not good enough’. We all feel this and it rotates round and round, although I have to admit it gets easier to deal with as one gets older and more accomplished. However, this wasn’t always so- low self esteem, comparing myself to others and not feeling worthy or good enough kept me from doing the things I should have done to begin my career throughout my twenties. It took me until age 34 to go to graduate school and even then it took me two years after graduation to call myself an artist. I even referred to my studio as ‘my room’ for many years because somehow calling it a studio made me sound like an artist and I didn’t believe that’s what I was. My favorite book, Art & Fear devotes a whole chapter to this subject and I recommend reading it whenever you’re feeling low, less than and/or not worthy and/or comparing yourself to others. Here’s a great quote from that book, The important point here is not what you have–or don’t have—what other artists have, but rather that it doesn’t matter. Whatever they have is something needed to do their work–it wouldn’t help you in your work even if you had it. Their magic is theirs. You don’t lack it. You don’t need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period.

I’m sure you’re all curious about what that image is at the top of the post…its a painting I recently murdered. I talk a bit about it in this instagram post and I’ll also talk a bit more about it in my next post.

Wishing you the best of the upcoming holiday season. Stay tuned for Part Two of this post and a mini-post which includes a holiday gift from me to you.

My Encaustic Fairy Tale: 3 Lessons Learned

3 Lessons I Learned as an Artist by Lorraine Glessner

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

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

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

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

My Fairy Tale Love With Encaustic

I confess, I am in love with the medium of encaustic. Just like any great relationship, it faithfully welcomes me as I enter the studio with it’s warmth, smell and luminescent glow. It always yields to my wishes without too much resistance and surprises me by doing things I didn’t even know I wanted it to do. Although we’ve had many tiffs and I have strayed to other mediums, I always return and our partnership gets better and better. We have a symbiotic connection, encaustic and I…yes, I am blissfully in love. But this wasn’t always so….

I confess, I am in love with the medium of encaustic. Just like any great relationship, it faithfully welcomes me as I enter the studio with it’s warmth, smell and luminescent glow. It always yields to my wishes without too much resistance and surprises me by doing things I didn’t even know I wanted it to do. Although we’ve had many tiffs and I have strayed to other mediums, I always return and our partnership gets better and better. We have a symbiotic connection, encaustic and I…yes, I am blissfully in love. But this wasn’t always so….

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there I was, a mid-thirties Fibers & Materials Studies Graduate Student at Tyler School of Art in 2001. I was working with ideas related to creation and the cyclic nature of life-imprinting, staining and marking as it relates to birth through to death and decomposition. More specifically, I was interested in the physical mark and pattern of this cycle on the earth and body. I began making visual comparisons using these kinds of patterns with images I took myself or found on the internet. Some of these were uncanny in their similarities as you can see below.

At the same time I was doing this research I was also looking for materials and processes that could replicate these patterns. Simply copying them or painting them didn’t work and looked contrived, I had to make these patterns via mark-making and process. One of my professors had taught with Christopher Leitch at the Kansas City Art Institute and recommended I look at his work combining organic printing processes and textiles. Based on the one paragraph and few images of his work that I found on the Internet, I developed my own process of rust printing and staining on textiles using decomposing organic matter and the results were more amazing than I expected. Using natural processes to depict natural processes also supported my content, it was astoundingly brilliant. I have included images of some of these fabrics below.

I came into the graduate program as an art quilter, hand dyeing my own fabrics and sewing large beaded and painted creations that included everything but the kitchen sink. I loved quilting and wanted to expand on what a quilt could be based on the simple definition, ‘three layers of material stitched together from front to back’. I used the fabrics I had created combined with papers, image transfers, mark-making, burning and lots of machine and hand embroidery. I spent the next year sewing very large, intricate quilts (which I later stretched and called paintings) for my upcoming graduate thesis show. These pieces are pictured below along with smaller quilt studies.

Even though they were a huge labor of love, I felt these quilts were just not enough. I wanted to show another side to these ideas and sculptural books were another thing that intrigued me. I wanted to work with anything skin-like. My quilts spoke very much to landscape and alluded to the body, but I wanted something luscious and something that could be touched. I experimented with melting Tyvek, plastics, crayons, layers of glue and although I liked some of these things, I didn’t find anything I could pour myself into doing. During a critique, one of my professors suggested encaustic. I had never heard of this mysterious and scary sounding thing. At the time, there were no books available yet and the images I found on the Internet of other encaustic work was done with an iron on card stock and was just not my kind of thing. I decided to experiment on my own and purchased a sampler of cheap encaustic colors, a bunch of beeswax and a pancake griddle. I also employed my Clover piecing iron that I used for quilting and I still use this versatile iron today. My first attempts were horrible, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t ventilating properly, I wasn’t using Damar resin in my medium, I wasn’t fusing properly, my cheap colors were flat and muddy-I hated this crap and what I had made with it! I threw all of my paints, griddle and everything else encaustic into a closet hoping to one day sell it all on Ebay…And in that closet it sat for almost a year…

For the better part of that year, I continued sewing, making books, experimenting with materials, teaching and learning, getting ready for my thesis show. It turned out that the gallery where I was to have my show had a little room off to the side about the size of a walk in closet. Neither me or my gallery partner could figure out what to do with the space, so we tossed it between us for a few weeks. Finally, it landed in my lap and I was totally overwhelmed with what to put in there and I only a few weeks to figure it out. I started rooting through all the samples I had made to come up with an idea and I stumbled across those awful encaustic paintings…which surprisingly didn’t look so awful anymore. I attribute this change to two major turning points throughout that year.  One, was an amazing graduate level drawing course I took at the beginning of my second year. I had never drawn very well and was nervous about this course, but I was encouraged by my professors and fellow students to take it. This was not a typical drawing course, it was focused on mark-making and process-two ideas that were relatively new at the time and very new to me. This course completely changed the way I thought about drawing and making work in general. It completely changed my life in the studio and the way I taught my classes and I continue to carry those ideas into both parts of my life to this day. Two, was the writing of my thesis paper, for which researching and writing had played an integral role in marrying my content with what I was doing in the studio. For the first time in my life, my ideas and the work I was making were becoming one thing. I had grown immensely and knew myself and my ideas, I had become an artist and could look at the work I had made through that lens. The featured image at the top of this post is made up of two of the first experimental paintings that I hated. After rediscovering these two along with the other paintings, I began pairing them together and they were complete. This piece called Damage was the most successful and is now in the collection of one of my grad school friends, traded for a few glass pieces that he made.

One of the experiments I had done was to dip my stained and rust printed fabrics into encaustic medium and really liked the way it added depth and enhanced the marks on the fabric. Since I had been stretching the sewn pieces into paintings, why not do the same here. I mounted the fabrics using wax, only using minimal color and letting the stains and marks speak for themselves. I made ten of these paintings and hung them in the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which housed my large sewn pieces. The opening was in the gallery district in Philadelphia on First Friday so we had a packed house and there were so many people in that tiny room ogling my encaustic paintings, one could barely move. People were interested in the sewn paintings but it was sparse interest and they sparked no real discussion, everyone wanted to know about the luscious paintings in the tiny room. The icing on the cake was that I also sold one of the encaustic pieces to someone I didn’t know, wasn’t related to and was a museum curator. This was the first thing I had ever made that had sold, so I saw it as some kind of sign that encaustic is what I should be doing. The piece that sold is called Fulfillment, pictured below with images of some of the other paintings in the show.

I followed all the signs and immediately abandoned the sewn paintings to continue exploring the fantastic medium of encaustic which I have loved and made my own at the same time the medium itself was becoming it’s own. Over the years, I added more color, collage, image, hair, mark-making and investigated various ideas, although my core ideas have remained rooted in the earth. The rest, as they say, is history and encaustic and I continue to live happily ever after.

To see what came after this early work, visit my web site portfolio and begin with the archives here.

This post is a lot longer than I had intended so stay tuned for the next post focusing on the lessons learned in this fairy tale and some ideas that may help you in your own studio practice.

A Desert Artist Retreat: Exploring Landscape Through Encaustic & the Mark

Awestruck, we found ourselves face-to-face with the rising sandstone cliffs of the Capitol Reef. The only comparable vista that I have ever seen is at the site of Petra, in the land of Jordan. However, the Capitol Reef is not only much vaster — extending over a hundred miles; unlike Petra — where Man had a major role in carving out its topology and architecture — the Capitol Reef owes its unique landscape and incredible array of multi-colored sandstone canyons, castles, pinnacles, and buttes — some of them reaching right up to the sky — to Nature’s rich endowment of evolutionary forces. Here, over eons, the rain, the snow, the sun, and wind have converged, employing all of their might to render a grandiose and unforgettable landscape.

Terry Tempest Williams

What
A Desert Artist Retreat: Exploring Landscape Through Encaustic & the Mark
Limited to 8 participants! 2 Spaces Available!
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
$755 includes most materials (see below)
For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorigles@earthlink.net

When
August 21-25, 2017, 10am-4pm each day

Basic Description
Utilizing the natural luminosity, textural and layering possibilities of encaustic, participants will experiment with innovative materials, drawing and marks to depict the spirit and essence of the land. Easy to moderate hikes exploring the high desert landscape of Torrey, Utah are led by Jeff and Lorraine and will provide the inspiration for which to develop ideas and provide areas of focus for series based work while also developing your personal artistic voice. Considerations of the use of the grid as a conceptual and compositional tool as well as its direct relationship to landscape will also be discussed. Optional individual critiques with both instructors will be offered to all participants.

 SCROLL DOWN TO SEE the images below of student work and fun scenes from hikes and studio during last year’s Torrey Retreat, 2016.

torreypromo

Where Jeff Juhlin Studio, in beautiful Torrey, Utah located just outside of Capital Reef National Park in the heart of the southern Utah Red Rock country. (pictured above: Jeff Juhlin’s Torrey, Utah home and studio)

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE the pics below for more of Torrey’s amazing landscape and Jeff’s studio, as well as additional blog posts related to the Torrey landscape here, here and here.

Who A collaborative teaching venture with Jeff Juhlin & Lorraine Glessner

Jeffjuhlin.com
Jeff’s work is about discovery, the hint of possibility. It’s about the layers or strata of things substantive, imagined, physical and implicit. He accumulates layers of material, images and color that make up the whole of a painting, then goes back in and to explore, excavate, expose and obscure. The end result is a non-literal visual form, a translation of that experience and process.
Jeff uses various materials and mediums to create these works however encaustic incorporated with mixed media including paper, ink and oil paint are most often the primary mediums. Encaustic’s luscious luminosity; physical presence and translucent quality seem the ideal medium to explore this process.
Jeff has completed Residency/Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Arts and VCCA France, Moulin Au Neuf, Auvillar France. He has been Artist in Residence 2010-2015 at the Hui Art Center in Maui, Hawaii. His work can be found in numerous private, corporate and public collections as well several public art commissions. Jeff holds a BFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. He maintains studios in Salt Lake City and Torrey Utah. He teaches Regularly at the Hui Art Center in Maui, Hawaii, the Kimball Art Center in Park City Utah and at his Studio in Salt Lake City.

lorraineglessner.net
Lorraine Glessner’s love of surface, pattern, markmaking, image and landscape has led her to combine disparate materials and processes such as silk, wood, branding, rust, paper and more in her work. Lorraine is an Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a workshop instructor and an award-winning artist. She holds an MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a BS from Philadelphia University, and an AAS in Computer Graphics from Moore College of Art & Design. She has a diverse art background with skills that include painting, sculpture, graphic design, interior design, textile design, photography, digital imaging and much more. Among her most recent professional achievements is a Second Place award in Sculpture from Art of the State at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA, a recently completed artist residency at Jentel Foundation and an acquisition by Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Lorraine’s work has been exhibited locally and nationally in galleries, craft centers, schools, libraries, universities, and more. Like her work, Lorraine brings to her teaching a strong interdisciplinary approach, mixed with a balance of concept, process, history, experimentation, problem solving and discovery.

What Else?

  • Color relationships, composition, application, content, proportion, scale as an effective foundation for other painterly information.
  • Learn how to use encaustic’s strengths (layering, transparency, luminosity) to tell your story.
  • Mark-making exercises geared toward making simple or complex marks to generate a personal language.
  • Individual consultation/critique discussion with each participant. Bring a piece of work, a question, a concern, a problem and discuss it with Jeff and Lorraine.
  • Daily hikes and meditations relax and open your mind and spirit to the land and to your own creative voice.
  • A slide talk with examples of contemporary artists whose applies the concepts discussed in the workshop is offered for inspiration.
Student work and other fun stuff from Torrey Retreat, 2016

Materials Included: the following is a list of materials provided for the student

  • All encaustic paints, extra medium, tools and equipment
  • Graphite paper, sumi ink & other misc. drawing media
  • Misc. drawing papers
  • Paper towels/rags
  • Extra encaustic brushes

What to bring: the following is a list of materials for the student to bring to the workshop

  • Sketchbook/notebook, pencil or pen for note taking
  • Smock (optional)
  • Closed toe shoes for safety in the studio
  • Lunch and beverage each day
  • 6-10 wooden painting panels (your preference of 8×8 or 10×10, but no larger or smaller, please) Experimentation is great! You must bring the wooden painting panels, but other suggested substrates are: stiff card, paper, masonite, board, plexiglass, etc. (nothing coated in acrylic or acrylic gesso!!) wooden panels will also be available for sale in the studio during the workshop.
  • 2-4 actual or images of your work
  • 5-10 natural hair brushes in various sizes for encaustic painting (1 brush will be designated your medium brush, so it must be free of color if you are bringing used brushes)
  • a variety of basic encaustic colors will be provided, however, if you prefer certain colors, please bring them. (containers provided)
  • a variety of pigment sticks will be provided, however, if you prefer certain colors, please bring them.
  • drawing media of your choice (pencil, pastel, conte charcoal, oil pastel, Crayon, graphite, felt pen, etc.)
  • any tool or material for any technique that you normally employ while working with encaustic
  • iwatani torch with extra butane (optional)
  • textured objects and/or sharp ended tool for pressing into/incising/writing/drawing into wax.
  • 1 lb encaustic medium (containers provided)

 Hiking Equipment Recommendations

  • Sturdy hiking shoes/boots
  • butt pack or small backpack
  • comfortable clothing
  • light rainwear
  • Hat
  • water bottle
  • Digital Camera or smart phone or point and shoot camera or DSLR
  • bag for collecting found materials

For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorigles@earthlink.net

Payment Payment of 50% of the workshop fee + materials ($377.50) is due at the time of registration with the remaining 50% ($377.50) due on the first day of the workshop. Please contact Lorraine for payment details.

Cancellation In the event that you need to cancel your workshop, please notify Lorraine at least 30 days prior to the start of the workshop and your deposit will be refunded. No refunds will be available for cancellations occurring less than 30 days from the start of the workshop.

Accommodations  THE CABIN HAS BEEN FILLED. SEE BELOW FOR ACCOMMODATION RECOMMENDATIONS (Pictured below) The large cabin next to the main house and studio is walking distance to the studio and is available for $100 per night with each person an additional $25 (up to 6 people) and a $100 deposit. It includes one bunk bed (two beds) Rear bedroom, two single beds in a middle bedroom and one double bed in the other middle bedroom, (see images) one full bath, full kitchen. A group of friends could take the whole cabin or 3-6 people could stay there for very little cost. Please contact Jeff jeffjuhlin@yahoo.com if you are interested in renting the cabin on the Torrey property.

lodgepromo1lodgepromo2

Cabins and hotel rooms in town (less than 10 minutes away) Start at $60 and up. There is a tent camping and mobile home park in Torrey also. Please see the web sites below or contact Jeff for more information.

torreyutah.com
airbnb

Food Filtered water will be available for drinking and tea, however, you may want to bring other preferred beverages. There will be no food served during the workshop, you must bring lunch and snacks each day. There is a full supermarket 25 Min away located on Loa, Utah and a small market right in Torrey with local meat, some vegetables and basic food items plus a Deli that serves breakfast and lunch. Contact Jeff jeffjuhlin@yahoo.com if you have specific food needs and questions.