I recently visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens knowing I would find visual inspiration. The colors of gorgeous velvety red roses in the Rose Garden, to the perfectly manicured bonsai and pine trees in the Japanese Garden, were a gift. In the English Walled Garden, I watched as wedding vows were exchanged, the scene felt like a chapter out of a fairy tale. I knew this would become the subject for a new painting.
Seeing the vibrant colors of lotus and lilies, wildflowers and roses, were a wake-up call. My eyes had been resting for too long this summer, and the newest series of miniature paintings (above) remind me of what we often take for granted… the purity of nature’s beauty and gifts.
Next weekend I’ll be exhibiting at the Evanston Art and Big Fork festival. If you are local and interested in seeing great art from 130 exhibitors, live music combined with loads of food and beverages, definitely make the time to visit. I’ll be in booth #133.
I am in the midst of summer art festival season and now have a three week break before my next exhibition in Evanston. I already started work on new miniature paintings, (they were a big hit at my last show on Michigan Avenue). I also plan on painting more Buddhas in order to completely fill one wall in my tent. The Buddhas have become an installation wall and more often than not I sell multiple pieces, allowing patrons to create the same installation effect in their homes.
The most stressful part of participating in outdoor festivals, for me, is always the weather… it’s the one thing out of my control! Last weekend, it was humid and rainy for all three days, although I was grateful there was minimal attendance despite the dreary weather. My tent began leaking in several different areas, I’ve already replaced it and thanks to Amazon Prime it was delivered today. Now I need to practice setting it up in order to guarantee I’ll know what to do at the next show.
I’m convinced if I wasn’t passionate about meeting people, summer weather, and encaustic painting, I’d find an easier way to share my work with the world. Professional artists are always talking about the various ways to exhibit, from high end galleries, in local and national art shows, to walls in restaurants and coffee houses, and everything in between, but I choose to be my own gallery at these festivals. Galleries usually earn 50% commission (well worth it if they do a good job bringing in patrons you wouldn’t otherwise have access to), but if you are willing to do the work, it feels good to keep 100% of a sale.
May is the month when I finalize my plans for upcoming summer festival season. I confirm I have enough work to fill my 10″x10″ tent space, and I usually try to create new marketing materials to promote the shows. This year I created a poster featuring the Face of Buddha in addition to my usual postcard announcement. I know when I display this series on the walls in my booth space the small 10″x8″ paintings make a striking impact as a group installation rather than as individual paintings and that is the theme I used for this years PR materials.
I also had to re-design my announcement card after I received word I was taken off the waiting list and accepted into the Port Clinton show. I’m scheduled to exhibit in five festivals this summer and will need to make sure my Buddha installation doesn’t dwindle by August. I will happily welcome (and be prepared to create new work all summer) if I have the problem of running low inventory because of too many sales!
March is the month most summer festivals send notification of acceptances. It’s actually quite competitive and I usually apply to one or two shows as backups in case I don’t get into my first choices. I’m pleased to share that I have been accepted and will be participating in the shows that were at the top of my list!
During the course of the year I am always thinking about two distinct bodies of work… the paintings that challenge personal goals and force me to push boundaries, (these are often larger works) and the paintings that I know will make for a stronger presentation in my summer exhibition space (smaller works, competitively priced, and more salable); sometimes there is overlap but presenting a cohesive body of work is the priority.
These paintings are all 2.5″ x 3.5″, floated, signed, and mounted on watercolor paper, presented in 10″ x 10″ shadowbox frames. Most recent works share a common theme inspired by travels in Ireland.
Face of Buddha:
The Face of Buddha has been a series of encaustic paintings that I present as an installation in my exhibition space rather than as singular works. All of these paintings are 10″ x 8″, and most patrons prefer to purchase multiple pieces allowing for a stronger statement. Painting the Buddha is a form of meditation and a way that allows me to be uninhibited in my use of encaustic mixed media techniques. To date I have created over 130 Buddhas and the series continues to grow.
My first show is not until mid June but now is the time to be building, refining, and improving presentation. The only loose end to all of the summer festivals will be the weather, but that is out of my control.
I continue to be inspired by my visit to the Burren in County Clare, Ireland last September. A new body of work is slowly starting to emerge in my studio, and I am in the midst of it all.
One of the challenges for this series has been my desire to incorporate a variety of mediums. To date: encaustic, oils, mixed media, even encaustic collagraphs, all depicting the Irish landscape, have started to take form.
The newest additions to the series are posted above. Working with oil paints has been an education in itself! I used photos I had taken and after establishing the general composition reached a point where I stopped looking at the photos and focused on re-creating a feeling rather than being exact to the actual photo. Color mixing has been a challenge as the oils beg to be combined; using a limited palette has forced me to learn color theory at it’s core. Most important to these landscape paintings has been to create wide open space, big sky, along with a purple tinge in the rolling limestone hills and mountains reflected by sun (or lack of it).
My next painting will feature the incredible stone walls seen during a visit to the Aran Islands. How can I have a series inspired by the Irish landscape without incorporating a stone wall or two?
This winter I decided to take an oil painting class with Nina Weiss at the Evanston Art Center. Oil paints are a medium I have avoided for my entire adult creative life! The reason I want to learn now is to be able to incorporate them with the encaustic medium. I also hope to combine oil paint with cold wax medium… either way, I want to learn and improve my overall painting knowledge and skills by taking this class.
It’s always interesting to see how other teachers lead, and it’s unavoidable that I compare their teaching style to mine. I think being a student with a new medium is a clear reminder of how new students might feel in my class the first time they experience working with the encaustic medium.
So far, I’ve only been to two classes. A still life was setup (I dislike still life immensely!) and the goal was to learn about ground color, underpainting, and mixing color. The class is also color theory; if I had chosen to work with gouache or acrylic things would be going much quicker but neither of those mediums combines with encaustic or cold wax.
I have probably spent more time working at home than I have in the two classes but I know for me the best way to learn is by doing it… over and over and over!
First painting from class:
I decided to start a small landscape study at home in order to better prepare for a larger version during class. It is the opposite way of thinking… applying layers of oil paint, as opposed to applying layers of watercolor. My background as a watercolorist goes back 30+ years. Painting with encaustic is also a different mind set from how I am learning with oils. I lean toward being self-taught but the color theory does not always sit well with my brain and I need guidance. I know all of this is a good lesson not just with the creative process but also with discipline, humility, and patience. It’s hard not being the expert!
It’s the holiday season and last month I received a commission gift request, to paint Mt Etna erupting! The couple met while studying abroad at the University of Catania in Sicily. I have never been to Sicily, but have been to Italy several times, and had to relate to the landscape of this Italian island without a first hand visual experience.
I sketched a composition capturing the shoreline, the rough terrain, along with the active volcano. I had to combine several of their photographs to create this custom landscape.
By sketching different versions of the landscape I could get familiar with the lay of the land, and I was able to flow right into the larger final version.
It will take several weeks for the oil sticks to dry completely before the painting can be shipped. I may end up making a few minor adjustments, adding touches of color using pan pastels or oil pastels, time will tell.
I rarely accept commission requests, it causes me great amounts of anxiety! I always tell myself worst case scenario, the client hates the painting and doesn’t have to take it. Sharing the development of the painting via emails and text images has alleviated much of the anxiety but still, it is always my top priority to make sure clients fall in love with their painting. When that happens, it is a perfect match.
The other two sketches are shown below, all are 10″ x 8″ –
Finally, after at least a decade (or two) of apprehension, I decided to take a workshop to learn how to paint portraits. Lora Murphy is an Irish artist I met a few years ago, and in September I attended the “Art and Soul Journey”, a 10 day trip to Ireland to learn about the people, places, and culture. The trip included art workshops offered by her and Kathryn Bevier at the Burren College of Art. I put what I learned from Lora on the back burner of my brain until most recently when I had to force myself to finally practice what she taught! It’s intimidating, trying to capture the essence of a personality, combined with accurate physical features. After several failed attempts I overcame insecurities and felt pretty good about this most recent self portrait attempt.
I used Lora’s color palette (her paints combine microcrystalline with encaustic) along with a strong contrast between lights, darks, shadows, and mid tones. Using her paints reminded me of watercolor – maintaining a focus on translucent layers and washes of color, always striving toward keeping the colors crisp and clean.
The portrait of Haley was challenging because there were very few shadows in the photo I used for reference. I tried to keep the skin tones pure and focused on facial planes more than the contrasting shadows.
Hopefully I will continue to practice painting portraits, I have my adult children I can use as models. It makes a difference to me that I am familiar (intimately) with the subject matter.
My self-portrait is currently included in “It Figures, 2017” at ARC Gallery
I found the image above on a literary site, and relate to it on so many levels.
This is just my second blog post since switching from blogspot.com and I am still clicking around behind the scenes trying to figure out the structure, codes, which buttons lead to which results… technology is definitely not my strong suit! There is an ongoing learning curve because of the dynamic nature of the web.
Why do I blog?
Blogging is a way to share events, classes, creative processes, successes (and failures), and open up dialogue between you the reader and me the artist/writer. The internet has become an essential tool for almost every profession and if you don’t keep up you are left behind. Visual artists in particular have an opportunity to share their passion, market and promote themselves at no cost, and take advantage of opportunities to post their work for the entire world to see. When I started blogging almost ten years ago I treated blogging more like a personal journal (I was in graduate school at the time) and it was less about marketing and the business of the arts. I was also able to network and connect with fellow artists by following their blogs and I took advantage of learning from other like minded people. Because of technology, so much is at your finger tips, and there is a choice – to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow – or do nothing.
All three of my submitted paintings (below) were accepted into “Imagine Denmark”, November 10 – 25, 2017, Kunstvaerket Galleri, Vitapark, Odder, Denmark. This is Denmark’s first International Encaustic show!
“Night Shadows” (below) is on display in Denver at the Knoll Gallery “Wax Stories II”, November 3 – January 6, 2018.
The Copley Society of Art annual Small Works Holiday Show opens November 9 – December 24, 2017 and will include the following five paintings, all inspired by my recent trip to Ireland.