Blog Hop

I was invited by the talented encaustic artist Bridgette Guerzon Mills to join in on this blog hop project. Thank you Bridgette! The project consists of answering some questions regarding art and my art process as well as to highlight three artists/creatives I admire. I enjoyed connecting with each artist and I’m thrilled to share them with you! First are my answers to the questions asked of me for the blog hop project:

1.) What am I working on/writing?

I am currently working on a series of 15-20 paintings. I’m looking forward to developing a cohesive body of work with such scale and importance to my life, and I am ready to dive in. My goal is to prepare these works for my first two person exhibit with FUSEDChicago artist Ahavani Mullen, at the Brickton Art Center in Park Ridge, Illinois in June 2015.  I'm honored to have the opportunity to exhibit my work along side such a talented artist and in front of a large audience.

I am also working on several commissioned works on both a large and small scale. I’ve been enjoying the process and nothing is more satisfying that seeing the finished piece hanging in someone’s home or office!

2.) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

Encaustic is a unique medium but I’ve seen it applied in many different ways. No one method is better than another. What makes my work unique is the meaning behind each piece - the raw emotion that inspires it - so the outcome is never the same. I am inspired by my personal experiences and memories, importance of family, and my love of nature. I like to incorporate my own photography, materials, and objects with significance or use them as a basis for a concept. My goal is to reveal the light within each piece, by use of color, texture, and layers that achieve an overall sense of peace.

3.) Why do I do what I do?

Because it is what I am meant to do. As I sit on my front porch reflecting on this question, that thought immediately popped in my head. At that exact moment, I looked up to find two bright red cardinals singing loudly in the tree. That is not a coincidence! My past two blog posts refer to the special meaning of cardinals, you can find that post here and here. It’s my sign that what I’m doing is right. A little glimpse of hope and reassurance amidst the uncertainty and risk that comes with being an artist. Without my art, my painting, and my faith, I would not be living the life I was destined to live. I paint because it’s what I was meant to do.

4.) How does my writing/working process work?

My process begins a lot like this blog post. Writing in my notebook, journaling, writing my “morning pages”, making sketches, writing key words and ideas to help the painting come to life. I usually have a clear focus when I begin a piece, whether based on a feeling, a time or place, I am able to translate those emotions into an image in my head and then eventually to the surface. When I am immersed in the many layers of wax, I am taken to a place where it flows from within. There are happy mistakes that allow me to react to each mark, groove or imperfection, and it leads me to the next layer. I usually build up to 40-50 layers on each piece. I know the painting is done when it’s done. I may let it sit for a few days to let it settle in my mind but usually it's just a matter of finishing the edges.

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Thank you Bridgette for inviting me to participate in this project. It was an honor to be featured on your blog! It was a rewarding experience to think about and answer these questions about my work. I especially loved reading her answers posted on her blog last week. Read it here.

BRIDGETTE GUERZON MILLS

My mixed media paintings incorporate moments captured by my photographs with the richness of paint, creating a bridge between two worlds – the real and the reconstructed. I lay down layers of paint and pieces of photo transfers, papers or fibers to create depth in both form and meaning. The canvas becomes a multilayered surface that speaks to both the visual and tactile senses. This integration of diverse layers creates an intimate connection that invites exploration.

Bridgette's blog: www.guerzonmills.com/blog

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Below are the three inspirational artists/creatives I invited to participate in the blog hop. They will be posting their answers next Saturday, August 16.

My first pick is my best friend, Katie Budris. She is an incredibly talented poet, writer, tap dancer, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. We met in preschool at the young age of 4 and grew up a block and a half from one another in Libertyville, IL. I have fond memories of our favorite activities: riding bikes to Dairy Dream, playing with Barbie’s in our basement, choreographing dance routines and performing them for our parents, and of course getting muddy and full of mosquito bites at Camp Ondessonk. We may live across they country but she will always be my best friend forever. I am continually impressed by her natural artistic talent and how she fully devotes herself to what she believes in.

KATIE BUDRIS

Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, Katie Budris completed her undergraduate work at Hope College in Holland, Michigan and earned her MFA at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Albion Review, After Hours Press, From the Depths (Haunted Waters Press), The Kelsey Review, Michigan Avenue Review, Outside In Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, and the anthology Crossing Lines (Main Rag Press). Her first chapbook, Prague in Synthetics, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. The focused collection is centered on her experience studying abroad as part of Western Michigan University's Prague Summer Program. Katie lives in Philadelphia where she is a professor of Writing Arts at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey and at Community College of Philadelphia and also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Glassworks Magazine. In addition to writing, Katie dances professional with The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, for which she also choreographs and serves as assistant director. When she isn't writing, grading, or dancing, she's spending time with her English Mastiff, Harper.

Read some of her work and learn more about her at:
www.katiebudris.com/blog

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I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Jewel Haley at Shawna Moore’s encaustic workshop in May of 2013 at Jenny Learner’s studio. He was incredibly kind and genuinely interested in conversation, clearly an extremely talented artist. I’m really intrigued my Michael’s use of encaustic with photography and I’m honored to feature him here today.

MICHAEL JEWEL HALEY

I am a self-taught artist and photographer living in San Jose. When I was a young boy growing up in northern California, I lived for a time on a small farm where we raised dairy cows, chickens, geese, rabbits, and an abundant crop of garden produce. The father of one of my neighborhood friends raised Italian Honey Bees. My friend and I took turns each year taking care of each other’s family livestock and pets during vacations – my duties extending also to the care of the honey bees. This reciprocation extended to the bees themselves, of course, as it was these same bees that pollinated our fruit and nut trees. Bees fascinated me, and after realizing the occasional sting wasn’t going to kill me, I lost all fear of working amidst the hives. During my short education, Ed Allen taught me the process of smoking the bees, and how to extract and filter the honey from the comb.

When the seed of an idea that eventually became Studio 48 began to germinate four years ago, I was casting about for a medium in which I could display my photos in an original and unconventional way. My materials research eventually led me to beeswax, but I never made the connection to my experience on Allen’s Bee Ranch until later in the creative process – when my old buddy, Mark Allen, visited me at Studio 48 for the first time. Inspired by his visit, he returned home to the family farm to share the story of my art with his parents – who still live on the farm after more than 40 years. They responded by surprising me with a fresh sheet of freshly extracted beeswax from the Allen farm. I was floored by the family’s sweet, symbolic gesture. Many generations of bees have made Allen’s Bee Ranch their home over the past 40 years, and like a delicious sourdough starter passed down through several family generations, this sheet of beeswax will be added to my core blend, thus insuring that a small part of Allen’s Bee Ranch (and my modest contribution to its history) is represented in every finished work of art produced here at Studio 48.

Michael's Jewel Haley's blog: michaeljewelhaley.com/blog

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I had the opportunity to work with talented artist Debra Claffey on the Diptych Project II, a collaboration of 38 encaustic artists from New England Wax and FUSEDChicago. While we’ve never had the chance to meet in person, I consider her a friend and greatly respect her work. I love how she uses encaustic to depict the stunning beauty of plant life and I am mesmerized my the depth and translucency she is able to create.

DEBRA CLAFFEY

Debra Claffey is a visual artist who uses encaustic, oil, and mixed media in her work. Raised in Connecticut, schooled in Massachusetts, she now lives and works in New Boston, New Hampshire. She holds a BFA in Painting from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Tufts University and an Associate's Degree in Horticultural Technology from the University of New Hampshire.

Claffey writes a blog, Making Something Out of Nothing, and a Facebook page. In June 2013, she organized her first curated exhibition, Natura Viva: Flora, Fauna, and Us, at ArtCurrent Gallery in Provincetown in conjunction with The Seventh International Encaustic Conference.

Debra Claffey's blog: http://debraclaffey.blogspot.com

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Look for these three artists blog hop post next week. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about each one as much as I have!

Green exhibition at FAB Studios

Excited to share I have two new paintings featured in the GREEN exhibition this month at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago! Come out to support me and other members of FUSEDChicago, midwest encaustic artists and their interpretation of the word "green". The gallery opening is one week from today on Friday March 14, from 5-8pm.

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Changed and Hope Within explore my love for nature. I am inspired by elements of the natural world, travel, texture and found abstractions. "Green" is not defined by the color itself, but also a feeling, a place, or a moment in time.

Changed, encaustic mixed media, 18"x18"

Changed, encaustic mixed media, 18"x18"

Hope Within, encaustic mixed media, 18"x18"

Hope Within, encaustic mixed media, 18"x18"

New addition

It's been a few months since my last post due to a very important addition to my family! My husband and I welcomed home a bloodhound puppy named Harvey in early November. He is the sweetest boy, such a loving cuddly puppy. Just this past weekend was the first time Harvey sat with me in the studio and took a nap! He is 6 months old and already over 80lbs :) I love that he wants to be near me and especially while I paint. We've been working up to that and trusting him to make sure he doesn't try to eat anything that could be toxic. I'll have to get an extra dog bed so he has his own place to lay down so I can get work done!

Enjoy a few photos below! Now onto new work...

Color with Intent

There's a wonderful new video from R&F Handmade Paints, an encaustic paint supplier, about the company's founder Richard Frumess. If you have a few minutes it's a fascinating peek into the making of their paint and pigment sticks, celebrating the company's 25th anniversary.

Enjoy!

Also, check our their newly revamped website here.

Happy place

Nature is my happy place. I love the outdoors. I dream about being in the forest, hiking through the trees, lying down in a field full of wildflowers and tall grass, or walking through a shallow creek. My love for nature started when I was young, as long as I can remember. I was always outside playing with friends. We'd go to the park, play in the mud, swim in the creek, explore the woods — I loved getting filthy. The dirtier the better! I bet my Mom loved that. :)

When I was in my early teens, I attended Camp Ondessonk, a youth camp in the Shawnee National Forest. My best friend, Katie, asked me to go and thank God I went! More than 15 years later, it's the one place I hold close to my heart and can call "my happy place". When I close my eyes and picture my favorite place in the world, it's Camp. Truly God's creation — acres full of lush forest, natural waterfalls and swimming lakes, steep cliffs and dark caves. Not only was it a ton of fun, filled with friends and memories that will last a lifetime, the best part was being outdoors, living in nature for an entire week. Camp was not for the average outdoorsy person... it had no electricity (except the dining hall) and we slept in treehouses and caves, tons of gigantic bugs and lots of dirt! I am officially way too old to be a camper, but I have gone back as a volunteer and would jump at the chance to go again. I am so thankful I was able to go year after year and experience all of that Camp had to offer. I will always carry the memories with me!

As I was working on this small painting below, I started thinking about my love for nature and how it's shaped my life. It calms and relaxes me... makes me feel home. I picture myself in a golden field, letting the sun hit my face. Feeling free and unrestricted. It makes me think how nature is such a big part of me, maybe more than I realize... and I am passionate about it. It would be natural for my work to continue to go move in that direction. An underlying theme I never realized was there but already was present in my work?

All I have to do is close my eyes and think about my happy place. 

 

Golden Fields, encaustic and pigment stick on panel, 8x8

Golden Fields, encaustic and pigment stick on panel, 8x8

Opening Reception at Morpho Gallery

A beautiful show at the Morpho Gallery last evening! My two works are on each end in this photo, Space Between and Before the Light.  

It's always inspiring to see how other encaustic artists use the medium. Everyone has their own unique style and it's fascinating to observe how many different ways you can use wax. The possibilities are endless! Go check out the Wax('in)Blue: An Encaustic Exhibition the entire month of August at the Morpho Gallery in Chicago.

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Slowing down

In the last few weeks I've been trying to paint as much as possible. I've been working on small panels which help me get in the experimental groove and not worry about making art. I wouldn't say I'm rushing, instead slowing down. By experimenting with the techniques I learned with Shawna Moore, I am taking a new approach entirely. She brought up an interesting quote today on Facebook from one of her workshop students. I agree with this thought:

She wrote, "Perhaps one of the nicest post-workshop comments I have ever received from a student in Toronto:  "I really enjoyed learning the techniques you demonstrated (smooth layers, "whispers" and "kisses" of colour, calligraphic marks etc.) but what I thought was more important for me was your approach to painting, which I would describe as "calmly meditative." With these words, and "keep it simple" in my mind, I hope to slow down and engage with the process a little more reflectively, cleanly ........ and calmly -  instead of just charging in and slopping on the wax.  My yoga instructor is always using the words "no rush, no hurry" and these words came to mind as I watched you work."

Slowing down is a challenge for me. Engaging with the wax. Let the paint settle. I am really enjoying the process.

No rush, no hurry. 

Encaustic workshop with Shawna Moore

A few weeks ago I was lucky to attend the Encaustic and Pigment Stick Workshop with artist Shawna Moore at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. I learned a TON! So many new techniques and tips that will help develop my ideas.

It will forever change the way I paint. The techniques she taught open up my eyes to something new, a new way of working and applying wax. The process gives greater depth and transparency -- something I've been exploring and practicing lately. The use of oil paint and pigment stick give an infinite number of possibilities with layers, color and mark making.

I am especially intrigued by mark making techniques. Pounding into the wax with various tools and objects, rubbing pigments into marks and revealing them as each layer builds with transparency. One of my favorite thoughts, Shawna expressed "damaging the painting will give it flaws you can respond to."

Here With Me, encaustic on panel, 11 x 14 inches

Here With Me, encaustic on panel, 11 x 14 inches

We also learned how these techniques can apply to landscape images. It was a new method of abstract painting, using tape to mark a horizon line and letting the wax encapsulate the pigment. I really enjoy this concept. Here was my first try: 

Landscape 1, encaustic on panel, 10 x 10 inches

Landscape 1, encaustic on panel, 10 x 10 inches

New techniques and new inspiration! I have so much to explore and can't wait to discover my work again. Thanks to Shawna Moore and Jenny Learner for hosting an incredible weekend! I look forward to participating next year.