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!