My Residency Work: Found Objects, Line Drawings & Process

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

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

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

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

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

Initial Markmaking Experiments

Tracing the Contour of the Landscape with Markmaking Tools

Finished, ‘Filled In’ Drawings

Various Image/Collecting Hikes Showing Terrain & Growth

The Self Made Artist Residency: Part 2 Decisions…Decisions..

Part 2 of 3 articles on how to plan your own Self Made Artist Residency. This is a list of helpful questions and decisions you must make before taking the plunge.

So you’ve applied for and have been rejected from a few residency programs, you’ve weighed the pros and cons regarding creating your own (Read Part 1 of this series, Self-Made Artist Residency: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly) and decided to be a rebel and do it! But where to begin? The following is a step by step checklist of important decisions to make before taking the plunge and of course, I offer examples of some of the things I thought about and actually did.

These considerations all work together, one is not separate from any of the others. You might not be able to check all your boxes, but having all considerations all in one list, plus all of the questions I ask may help you prioritize what is most important to you. It might also help to refer to Residencies: The Artist Kind, a blog post I wrote about choosing and applying for a residency program. Read to the end of this article for photos of my funky cabin and funky cabin art.

  1. When and How Long For most, carving out time away is the biggest hurdle so this must be your first consideration. I’m a bit of a hermit in the winter months, especially in the months of January through March, so I usually leave that time unscheduled in order to focus on my studio work. I had wanted to schedule my residency for all three months, but I had a rare workshop scheduled for mid-February. That left six weeks starting in January, a good amount of time to acclimate to my surroundings and get some work done.
  2. Location Where in the world is most inspiring to you? What kind of climate/landscape do you need to feel inspired? Do you need a city near you, lots of people, civilization? Or are more isolated areas better for you? Do you want to be in the US or is international travel important for you? As I mentioned above, I needed to get out of winter in Philadelphia so being somewhere sunny and warm(ish) was my top priority. Hiking is part of my studio research, so an interesting landscape with parks and/or hiking trails is where I focused on the map. Also, my budget didn’t support international travel, so I focused on the south, southeastern and southwestern US.
  3. Cost You will be solely responsible for all costs, so you must make a budget that includes travel, food, accommodations, art supplies, entertainment, etc. Once you arrive at a budget, double it(!) as there are incidentals that come up that you may not have considered. For example, most of the state parks I’ve been to here in PA are free while most of the parks I visited in FL had a charge. I went to a new park every other day while there and realized I should just purchase a Parks Pass which eventually paid for itself.
  4. Accommodations How much room do you need to make your work? Do you like to cook, do you need a kitchen? Do you need outdoor space? Do you usually make a big mess when you work? Working with encaustic needs too many special considerations so I knew I was only bringing water media and this restriction freed up my options. I don’t need a lot of room to make my work and I’m not especially messy when I work. Part of my embarking on this residency was to get away from my life, to think and be alone so I didn’t want a lot of distractions-being in a rural environment was okay with me. I also like a patio space or space outside of my living space to read, write, draw, etc. I don’t cook and really only need a microwave and small fridge for meals. Having all of this info combined with my timeframe, location and budget worked out.
  5. What’s Next I then went to Airbnb (also checked Sublet.com, HomeAway, Vrbo) and searched the states I was most interested in visiting-CA, UT, NM, AR, CO, FL, GA, SC. I also checked the extended forecast and found that I would be most comfortable in FL. I couldn’t afford anything in the vacation spots most snowbirds frequent in January, so I settled on a small fishing cabin on the St. John’s River in Northern FL that checked most of my boxes. (Pictured above) It had two small bedrooms, a sunroom, a full kitchen, a small bathroom, laundry on premises and it was right on the edge of a National Forest. It was also 90 minutes from two cities that had galleries and museums so that I could satisfy my art cravings. Not perfect..and by no means was it luxury…but it was within my budget, drivable within two days from home and I could be comfortable there for an extended period. I knew I would be in a rural environment, but this place was very isolated with the closest food store at least 30 miles away. It was weird at first, but I acclimated well and by the third week I learned to plan my hiking trips so that I could also do errands along the way.

The best thing about doing this on my own was realizing I could do it and that I didn’t have to rely on the almighty residency programs out there to tell me where, when and how high I could jump. Everyone will be different, but I hope this offers some inspiration and at least gets the wheels turning for you. Stay tuned for my next post outlining how I carved a creative space out of a fishing cabin, supplies I took with me, supplies I wish I took with me and what kind of work I made while on my residency.

The Self Made Artist Residency: Part 1, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Are you tired of applying for and getting rejected from artist residency programs? This is the start of a 3 part article that will guide you step by step on how to start your own self made artist residency.

After many dollars and hours spent applying for and being rejected from numerous artist residencies, I decided to make my own in sunny Florida at the start of this year. I posted about it almost every day on social media which generated a lot of interest from artist friends who had never considered this for themselves. I got many questions regarding how I did it, so I’ve broken down my process into three posts. This first one is a list of considerations I thought about and that you should think about before embarking on your residency adventure. The second is a step by step process for organizing your budget, location, accommodations, etc. The third outlines how I carved out an artist studio from a fishing cabin in rural Florida and the work I made while there. I hope this series helps you to buck the system and make your own way in residency bliss! It might also help you to refer to Residencies: The Artist Kind, a blog post I wrote about choosing and applying for a residency program.

I have been fortunate enough to have been awarded a few residencies in the past, so I have something to compare with my self-made residency and while there are obvious similarities there are also plenty of differences between the two. For some, being completely responsible for oneself as well as spending time alone is a dream, but for others, it might be pretty scary. In some cases the good things I’ve listed might be considered bad things and visa-versa. Consider this list just food for thought before you make the jump. After reading, scroll down for some digital drawings I made during my residency and visit my Instagram for more.

The Good

  • You have no responsibilities to anyone but yourself, you can do what you want when you want.
  • You can be in perfect solitude, choosing when and if you would like to socialize.
  • No requirements to donate work, open your studio, offer a lecture/workshop, work in the kitchen, etc.
  • No application process, essay writing or asking friends to be a reference for you.
  • You choose where, when, what, how and how long.

The Bad

  • You have no stipend and therefore absorb all financial responsibilities for your residency.
  • You are responsible for all household duties-cook, clean, shop, laundry, etc. These are things you likely do at home, but might not want to do during a residency.
  • No studio visits or critiques.
  • No impressive or prestigious line to add to your resume.
  • Likely, no designated studio space in which to be messy.

The Ugly

  • You have to know yourself. Know who you are and what you can accomplish away from the structure of being at home. For example, if you don’t have a regular studio practice at home, you aren’t going to magically establish one away from home.
  • Do you feel uncomfortable away from home? When you travel, does it take you a long time to acclimate to a strange place? Do you need a lot of time and/or a lot of space to create your work? Do you need a ton of materials at your disposal to make your work? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re likely not a good candidate for a self-made residency. If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy in a new place and it takes you a long time to make yourself at home, your creative energies will not be flowing and your time and money will be wasted.
  • Although you’re traveling, this isn’t a vacation, you need to get to work. Know why you want to do this and roughly what it is you’d like to accomplish. Have some goals set and set up some kind of structure to your days. Even if you don’t accomplish all of your goals, you can at least strive for something good to happen during your residency.
  • You are alone with yourself and your thoughts. This might be pretty ugly for some, but it was amazingness for me.