Francie Hester, Painter, Tells Her Story

 

 
 
After more than three decades of painting, I have come to understand the ebb and flow of creating work in the quiet of a studio.  The challenge to create something out of nothing takes patience, passion, and dedication. A sense of humor helps, too.
1. Unfolding #3 – 60″ diptych acrylic and wax on aluminum honeycomb panel
For me, the painting process begins with the poetic voice and the intuitive and cognitive decisions are woven together to form the structure and ultimate support. I think of the painting process not as an artistic journey; it begins and ends not as a venture but to deepen that which is inherently known but not understood.
2. Intertwined #31 – 16′ x 16′ acrylic and wax on aluminum honeycomb panel
I try not to worry about traveling on a well-worn or fresh path, but to engage the process from one’s own perspective, extending that to its fullest potential.
 
 
3. Intertwined #16
 
I do not have any direct influences, so to speak.  I see, read, and hear, as much as I can, and things seem to surface when I need them. I gather outside influences, but it is more a process of weaving inward rather than extending out to reach a point where I did not begin. Differing perspectives and orientations can stretch the personal dialogue that runs through the work, and strengthen the voice from which the work is created.  But, for me, the voice must ultimately come from within if the work is to be authentic.
4. Vessel #1 30 inch acrylic and wax on steel disc
 
 
5. Relic #4  – 29″ acrylic and wax on sculpted aluminum
 

 

6. Convex #20 – 29″ triptych acrylic and wax on aluminum honeycomb panel

 

 

______________________________________
1. The Unfolding series reflects on the fluid nature of memory and on the passage of time. Pivotal moments occur with great clarity and precision, yet they evolve and revolve with distance and time. 
2 & 3. The Intertwined series examines two contrasting principles. Time is marked and measured; and time is unbounded, fluid, infinite.
4. The gentle arc of Vessels creates a space for reflection, contemplation, healing, remembering. Thought, time and memory come together as a collective.
5. The Relic series takes its shape from the Bi Discs of ancient Chinese burial sites. The series explores the concept of infinity.
 
6. The Convex series examines pathways and repetition creating patterns and cycles of memories — ones lost and found.

Gale Fulton Ross, Mixed-Media Painter, Tells Her Story

 

I arrived in NYC late 1970. Everything and everyone appeared so “cool” to this young artist and mother. My Boston accent was a novelty to a close-knit group of friends who are still comrades today. My neighbors were Taj Mahal and Miles Davis. Morgan Freeman told me if I stopped biting my nails I might be attractive and Liza Minelli suggested I wear my bra on the outside of my leotard. Donny Hathaway’s apartment was next to mine so I was invited to hear him play piano.
One day walking through Central Park Ivan Dixon winked at me and Geraldo Rivera was introduced as Gerry Rivers. James Baldwin’s brother poured my drinks and I lunched with a very young girl named Natalie Cole and her mom. I met Isabelle Washington Powell. We called her Belle. Belle lived in the heart of Harlem and was Congressman Adam Clayton Powell’s ex- wife. Belle had been a dancer at the Cotton Club. Her sister was the actress Fredi Washington and one of her best friends was Jean Claude Baker whose adopted mom was the great Josephine Baker. Jean Claude commissioned me to do Josephine’s portrait as well as her sister Margaret Wallace’s portrait.

 

HomelessOil on canvas,  2009

 

I painted Winton, Max and Monk. I exhibited with Gordon Parks and Robert Mapplethorpe. I visited the studios of Larry Rivers and Benny Andrews.  My life in NYC was rich in life lessons, old-age wisdom, youthful drinking and unforgettable lovers. I still live with the scents and sounds of the days of my youth spent living and learning that life ahead would be an ongoing series of adjustments. I also learned that men who only wanted pretty women lacked imagination and that to grow older does not mean to get old!
My artist philosophy is heavily influenced by African-American Artists, Charles White Jr., Augusta Savage, and Chicano Artist, Luis Jiminez. Charles said he, “used Negro subject matter because Negroes are closest to me. I am trying to express a universal feeling through them, a meaning for all men. All my life, I’ve been painting a simple painting. This does not mean that I am a man without anger – I’ve had my work in museum’s where I wasn’t allowed to see it. But what I pour into my work is the challenge of how beautiful life can be.”

 

Uncle SamMixed-media watercolor/ink on paper & clear plastic, 2016

 

My work is the continuation of his efforts. After resigning from the WPA in 1939, Augusta Savage opened the Salon of Contemporary Negro Art in Harlem, which was America’s first gallery for the exhibition and sale of works by African American artists. Works exhibited included those by Beauford Delaney, James Lesesne Wells, Lois Mailou Jones, and Richmond Barthe. The gallery was not financially successful, however, and was forced to close after
several months.
My gallery in Oakland, California, was based on Augusta’s efforts and suffered a similar fate after eight years. She too had a child when she was 16 years old. Luis Jimenez made sculptures for public places, intended to be seen and understood by thousands of ordinary people, in many cases, of Latino descent, who would pass by them every day. Jiménez’s art had many aspects, but for me its most distinctive characteristic was the way it was structured to appeal to a variety of audiences.
Luis said, “My working-class roots have a lot to do with it; I want to create a popular art that ordinary people can relate to as well as people who have degrees in art.” I too want to make multi-layered art for and by ordinary people that can relate to those who have degrees. Luiz and I were at LaNapoule together. He did my portrait.

 

Strolling, Mixed-media oil & acrylic on paper, 2016

 

After fifty years of a blessed career I am now entering the next phase in my evolution. My vision is continually amplified by a growing interest in what lies beyond the faces of the people I encounter, I see a global network of subjects including artists, curators and creative thinkers working collectively in hybrid ways spanning and driving curiosity as it applies to our changing “Culture” as a whole.
My art is like a “Ballad Poem” traditionally meant to tell a story; an un-transcribed narrative preserved for generations, passed along through imagery. My subject matter deals with religious themes, love, tragedy, domestic crimes, and political propaganda, only I don’t tell my viewer literally what is happening, I show the viewer what’s happening by implying crucial moments through the face, a figurative stance, or the angle of the eyes – each stroke is meant to convey a sense of emotional urgency of what some might call the “lower class.” My art is biographical.

 

Grandma’s Hands, Mixed-media acrylic on paper,  2010

 

I find myself now in the gap where my art practice, knowledge production and research process operates; it’s that tension between and beyond recognized paradigms that motivates me. I’m encouraging active viewer-driven learning over passivity because that is what made me an artist in the first place and how I’ve reached this stage of my career.
I believe interaction between my audience and myself creates opportunities that promote new imagery, dialogue and collaboration between artists, writers, curators and thinkers across cultures driven by audience desires rather than demands of an elite, often exclusive, art world where art equals real-estate. I want to remain agile, responsive, nomadic.

 

President Obama, Watercolor sketch on paper, 2016

 

 

With mature new images I hope to contribute and capture a unique public narrative whereby my subject matter revolves around the collective human condition and is rooted in my people and our culture. My concept for Culture As A Way of Life/Paintings is to share a humanistic philosophy with my 70-year-old sense of social responsibility. I’ll continue my career commitment to archive Black society from a Civil Rights to Contemporary perspective.
My plan includes the development of a series of mixed-media paintings celebrating family, endurance, spirituality, and the diverse range of Black experience over the last 40 years. These paintings, acting as reflections, will hopefully overturn some common ideas about Black life from l975 to present, demonstrating a changing Black culture. Culture As A Way of Life/Paintings will investigate the metamorphosis of what is understood as Black culture.

 

 

Teenage Mother, Watercolor, 1985

 

Jennifer Thomson, Painter & Poet, Tells Her Story

 

Growing up in rural Tennessee, I spent most of my time in nature, wandering through woods and fields. At home I loved helping to care for our family’s chickens, geese, ducks, goats, pigs, dogs and cats.
 
 
I often played under a huge willow tree in our back yard. Perhaps  my first art experience was marveling at the sunlight filtered through the leaves and the colors dancing before my eyes. I wrote little poems under that tree.
 
 
 
 
I knew at a young age that art was my path. I studyed at various art schools, and took up painting. One of my teachers introduced his students to anthroposophy and awakened us to sense the living, breathing inwardness and depth in all true art. To see and experience life and art spiritually became my path from then on. It eventually led me to Switzerland to study with master artist, Beppe Assenza. His school was grounded in anthroposophy, Goethe’s Color theory, Rudolf Steiner’s color indications and the art of painting.  
 
 
 
 
After 4 years, I came back to the United States near Hudson, New York to lead a painting training for the next 11 years! However, life changes led me to Crestone, Colorado, a town filled with a wide spectrum of spiritual seekers. This year I will give two Art Retreats: the first is August 11th to 15th and the second is August 25th to August 28th (details are on my website if you’re interested).
Finally, I have written a book for artists called An Artist’s Workbook. This book consists of 45 painting exercises distilled from my many years of experience pursuing and teaching art. The book’s intent is to encourage everyone to try different approaches in order to stimulate your artistic imagination and creativity.
 

 

 
 
Two years ago, Crestone, Colorado had the most beautiful fall ever. People stopped in ‘awe’ at the glorious colors on the mountain sides and commented on it’s beauty. For a while I did that too, when suddenly I realized “why am I merely gazing?  Where are my brushes?” I decided on a 10-day block of study and ventured into the nearby National Forest to paint.  
 
It was an amazing journey! I choose a place deep in the forest, a embankment overlooking the stream. Each day I would begin by quieting myself:  observing the light changes, color intensities, sounds of the forest and earthy smells. As my journey progressed, my attention to subtleties awoke. It was similar to meditation in that my inner life was finding quiet.  
Listening with my whole body, I became an ear of the forest. A soul connection happened. My art moved faster with more consciousness, with pure clarity. To experience moments when work is flowing is a gift! One piece after another filled my folder. Each day I would continue work on the art pieces in my studio, sometimes destroying and other times developing them further.  
I was inspired. The tenth day in the forest, I looked up and saw the last of the leaves falling. I smelled winter in the air as a cold icy wind touched my face. I picked up my art gear and headed home.
 
 
 
I displayed this work for 10 days in my studio and spent a full day studying it all.  The ending of this color journey was a winter canvas. I had taken dead leaves and sticks from my perch in the woods. Glued them on the canvas and painted over them.  No, I didn’t decide on a composition first! Instead the art piece evolved organically.  After the painting was completed, my inspiration ebbed with this poem:
 
Blue…the infinite.  
Ice Crystals, Snow, Cold & deep waters.
Fall has passed and winter encroaches.  
Blue sky…vast, protecting.
Moon shines over the mountain peaks, playful like a melody.
Lifeless remains of summer’s plants.  
Chirp, Slosh, Sigh, Swish, Cries of nature.
Earth’s deep silence.  

Raven Skye McDonough, Collage Artist, Tells Her Story

 

21st Century Athena – 36” x 36″, Paper Mosaic Collage on Canvas
 
Being born under the sign of Aries, I get easily bored — with art and nature being the only exceptions. This internal “drive” to move forward, has propelled me to experiment extensively with different media over the years, in order to visually convey a story I am trying to tell.
As a child, growing up in the suburbs of Boston, MA, I started creating art with crayons and colored pencils.  I transitioned into working with pastels as a teenager, then was introduced to oil paint during high school and continued to use it as my main media to create with, at the School of the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA.  My art focus back then was mainly to depict traditional representational subject matter such as still life’s, landscapes and the figure.
After Art School, it was difficult to find an art-related job so I had to put my artistic abilities aside. I transitioned into working with computers and technology in different capacities for the next 19 years while along raising my son, Bart.  

 

Sunset over Monadnock, 36” x 48” Acrylic on Masonite

 

In 2004 life changed drastically with my son going to away to college, a divorce, and the sale of our home.  I got back into painting accidentally when my  friend Karen Rocklin-Weare invited me over to her home to play with some acrylic paint and canvas that she had laying around.
Imagine my surprise when abstract imagery started coming out of me onto the canvas! I was hooked and painted every spare moment I could while holding down a full-time job.
From painting large abstract paintings in acrylics I transitioned into plein air painting landscapes in oils after meeting Modern Master Painter Stan Moeller of York, ME. With the encouragement, instruction and mentoring of Stan, so much of how I create (solving technical issues and composition) goes back to the things I learned with him. Watching Stan critique my artwork, and the work of other artists in his workshops, really helped sharpen my eye.  
 
 
Raven working in her Venice, FL Studio
 
After a couple of years, I felt something was still missing in how I wanted my artwork and personal style to look and feel. I wanted to combine the abstract and representational styles into one. It was during this time that I took a one day watercolor and collage workshop with Bill Earnshaw of Bedford, NH and fell in love with incorporating paper into my work. It wasn’t long before I covered all of the canvas with collage paper and a new style of Paper Mosaic collage was born.
 
Third Eye of the Tiger, 16” x 20” Paper Mosaic Collage on Canvas
The inspiration behind my art has primarily come from my love of nature and wildlife. I wanted to be a veterinarian growing up because of my love for all animals. This is the reason you find all kinds of critters and birds in my artwork.
With the relocation from New Hampshire to Florida in 2010, I now find inspiration from spending  time exploring the Florida landscape, its rivers, and the Gulf waters. Photographing and watching the amazing array of tropical birds has led to some very vibrant pieces.  
 
Double Trouble, 20” x 20” Paper Mosaic Collage on Canvas
I have created my share of what I call “pretty pictures” over the years which are lovely to look at but don’t really tell a story or raise awareness about social or environmental issues.

 

Spring Equinox, 24” x 48” Mixed Media Collage on Canvas

 

After much introspection, I have been compelled over the past 5 years to have my art tell a story, mainly using my collage and mixed media techniques as the tool. The different “mixed media” I currently use include: acrylic paint, paper of all kinds, venetian plaster, molding paste, clear tar gel, and crackle medium.
Most of my current inspiration is drawn from my own spiritual connections and from my nightly dreams. The subjects range from anti-war, environmental issues, political concerns, women’s issues, and the human journey to becoming an enlightened being.
 
 
Amazing Grace, 10” x 20” Mixed Media on Canvas
I have also been exploring the fine art of Assemblage. This is where you take random and discarded 3-D items and “assemble” them into a sculptural piece, which will either stand on its own or hang on the wall. This appeals to the “pack rat “in me that wants to save everything and make something new with it, with a further benefit of saving it from contributing to the landfills.   
When creating any kind of art, my intention is for the viewer to be drawn into my artwork long enough to forget their troubles and experience a moment of peace and thoughtful reflection as we navigate this hectic and crazy world we live in. 
 
 

The Psychology of Peace, 36” x 48” Paper Mosaic Collage on Canvas

Gaetano Cannata, Sicilian Chef, Tells His Story

 

The 18th-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico believed that as a civilization progressed, it lost touch with its creative origins. An ancient warrior would never declare “I’m angry”; he would wax metaphorically with “my blood boils.” I say this for a good reason. I believe an individual cannot truly master any cuisine or art of a certain culture unless the blood of that specific culture runs through that person’s veins. Not only that, but one needs to have a deep understanding of that culture as well.
I am Chef Gaetano Cannata and I am an artist, or that’s what I am told. I am the Chef and founder of Ortygia, a French-Sicilian fusion restaurant on the Gulf Coast in Bradenton, Florida.
I was raised up in a Sicilian family in New Jersey and after many years as an early childhood educator, I launched my own restaurant 10 years ago at age 50.
When you come from a typical Sicilian family, your whole life revolves around food. At breakfast, you’re talking about what to have for dinner and at dinner, you’re talking about dinner two days from then. My home is where I learned to love and respect food. The beginning of my journey started with my first meal.  Afterwards, I worked in restaurants with some really great chefs and not so great chefs and I learned from each one.”
I started working in kitchens when I was 14 years old, as I’ve always had a fascination with food and cooking. My father was a Sicilian-born chef and my mother learned all her fantastic cooking techniques from him and from her mother who was from the Abruzzi region of Italy. I would have to say that my passion for food started at home. I learned at a very early age to either grow your own food or to purchase it as fresh and local as possible. The only thing that came out of a can at my house were imported San Marzano tomatoes!  Food was always the major topic of conversation in my home. Where to buy it, how fresh it was and how to prepare it.  Most of my professional training came from a small chef-owned restaurant in my neighborhood, similar to the restaurant I now have. Most of these masters of their art were born in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal and most of them had the same food values as my parents. They all bought their food from the local farmers, fisherman, butchers, and bakers. I used to love to shop with them. The knowledge I gained from them was indispensable, but my love of food and cuisine, as well as the deep respect that I have for food, again was a gift given to me by my parents.
I pride myself on providing a unique dining experience.  We don’t just cook here, we create and build relationships. Ortygia is a warm and friendly place. I enjoy playing harmonica and I occasionally play with the musicians who perform here. Also, I endeavor to come out of the kitchen and check on every table when possible, and at times when the night is through, I may spend hours talking with clients about Sicilian food and culture, which is my passion.
I’ve been in the restaurant industry almost all my life, however, Ortygia is my first venture out on my own.  It’s been 10 years since I first opened my doors and it’s been a thrilling adventure, to say the least.
I can’t begin to express all the things I love about this business. I love the creative, artistic outlet it gives me, it allows me to expose people to a plethora of new tastes, and it also provides me the privilege of cultivating new friendships. To be a successful artist in this field, I believe I must set myself apart from other restaurants in the area. The first and most basic feature that does this is the cuisine. It is a forgotten cuisine that emerged out of Sicily and Naples over 200 years ago called the cuisine of the Monzu. It is a fusion of French and Sicilian cooking, which allows me poetic license, which inspires my creativity. One other thing that sets Ortygia apart is the atmosphere we create. When customers come for dinner they arrive as clients and leave as friends. I am told again and again by my clientele that they come to Ortygia not only for the food but also for the experience.
You need to have passion and love for what you do. If you don’t believe in what you do, neither will anyone else. Shop fresh, locally, and wisely. Treat your clients as if no one else is as important as them, and treat your employees with the respect they deserve. This is something that can’t be feigned. You truly need to believe it and feel it.  My tagline, “The flavor of Sicily—The flavor of Civilization.” It’s a statement of what coming to the table is all about—being civilized.
My food is my art, although I may not have understood it that way at first. I was just a guy who loved to cook for my friends and family just for fun and for the love of it.  I was giving them a culinary, cultural, musical, and familiar experience without even realizing it. I was giving them my heart.
I succeeded against all odds. I opened as an unknown, in an economically-challenged neighborhood which has now grown into one of the largest artist communities in Florida. Ortygia has become a 4 1/2-star culinary destination. Based on this and other factors, and now in our 10th year of business, we are planning our 6th culinary tour through Sicily, expanding our cooking classes and I continue writing articles in various newspapers and periodicals educating the public on Sicilian food and culture. This is because I never gave up on my passion and followed my dream.

Kristin Williams, Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

 




I’m not sure of the definition of “self-taught” these days there are so many available inputs for learning new stuff. Regarding art, with the exception of a couple of quarters of ceramics at UT Knoxville as an undergraduate and one halfway audited drawing class at our local community college a few years back, none of my other art or craft lessons have been in academic sessions. To say I love to learn and expand my skills is an understatement. I’m mostly self-taught and fortunate to have taken many a workshop with incredible teachers. And then there was my mom.


 

Embroidery on Quilt Square



I tell folks that my mother was the biggest influence on me being a creative person. She instilled that curiosity about making “all the things.” She was such a talented craftswoman who could rug hook, knit, sew, quilt, garden, cook, embroider, cross-stitch, crochet, and do virtually anything with her hands. As a child, I knew I could always wheedle a craft project, or book, much more easily than say a doll or other toy. We made our Christmas ornaments and sewed together. Whatever she was doing she taught me to do it, too. I never saw my mother’s hands idle and I’ve adopted that stance. A 30-minute car ride merits a project!

 

Embroidery on Quilt Square
Throughout my 20s, 30s, and early 40s I’d say I was an accidental crafter. The urge to create was there and I pined for time to play. I would bottle it up until it burst out! I remember one day absolutely having to paint and write poetry all over a chair….just because I HAD TO. The odd things called to me and I was intrigued with art that included a ton of bits, baubles, fonts, and old rusty things.

 

Art Journaling

 

Like many who love Mixed Media, opening up Somerset Studio magazine for the first time was a life-changing experience for me. “What??? There are others in this world oddly attracted to photos of people I don’t know and collages with random meanings?” Flipping to the back I discovered there were even retreats and classes for this art form I had been drawn to for years! I made plans.
My first retreat was in Portland, Oregon for a week. I took classes from instructors like Traci Bautistaand Claudine Hellmuth; rock stars in my world. I kept all my projects and notes. I was hooked. For years after that my best friend from high school & college and I used an annual retreat as a way to reconnect over a shared passion for being creative.
With my background in Chamber of Commerce work, and my mother being the consummate “Southern Woman,” the hospitality of the retreat settings was lacking for me. Hotels can be impersonal and large crowds intimidating. Living in a UNESCO Creative City (Paducah, Kentucky) that annually hosts over 35,000 people for QuiltWEEK, the wheels started turning. Could I bring my love of learning art and craft to my home and create an inviting space for people like me to learn?

 

Art Journaling

 

The prospect of turning 50 was daunting to me. I remember vividly dreading it as I was driving to yet another meeting in my field of Economic Development. I had to get excited about turning 50 and things had to change. That’s when the planning for Ephemera Paducah, my art and craft workshop space began. Now it is over 3 years old and the best 50th birthday present anyone could have “given” me.
I’m all over the place as far as favorite mediums. Mixed Media is a polite way to put it. Art Journaling has been a tremendous outlet for me as a way to push boundaries, learn new techniques, and actively create without worrying about if someone will buy this. It’s art for me. I’m so pleased that the most recent edition of Art Journaling Magazine by Somerset Studio features one of my journals!

 

Assemblage in Altoids Tin

 


Lately I’ve been picking up discarded quilt squares and giving them new life with stencils and embroidery. It’s been nostalgic harkening back to the days when my mother taught me French Knots and Lazy Daisy stitches. These will turn into journal covers.
As one who’s always picked up odd bits in junking adventures, assemblages are also quite intriguing to me. Maybe storytelling is my story as I create tales for the well-loved, hand made quilt squares or old photographs incorporated into collages?
I love being a work-in-progress and learning from the amazing rock star instructors hosted at Ephemera Paducah. It’s also lovely creating a place for those like me who love to learn. The vibe in the room when everyone gets into his/her project is palpable and totally energizing. I guess my art is my art; but also creating a place for people to share and learn is the greatest art I’ve created to date.

 

Homage To My Love of Dogs

 

Daryl Harwood, Mixed Media Traveling Artist, Tells Her Story

I am a full time mobile artist. I live with my fiancé in our RV and create artwork on the road while we travel throughout the country, participating in 30-35 juried art shows a year. I love creating outside, directly influenced by the natural environment I find myself in. My previous medium as a ceramic artist has influenced my current body of work as a mixed media artist. The surface of my paintings are highly textured to reflect my love of this tactile nature. 
My daily work is a dynamic unchartered journey of creation. Paint, paper, oil pastel, text and maps are a few of the elements I use to express the sensual forms, patterns and textures found in nature. Nature is my jumping off point. It sets the course for me to express the delicate balance of contrasting elements and to translate them into my work.
The compositions are brought about by an intuitive process, all works are one-of-a-kind. I create a recessed box or ‘vessel’ within the painting, incorporating natural and sculptural elements, to produce the atmosphere, or experience, of the piece. The feeling that the artwork evokes and relationship it produces, is what is most important to me.
To see more of Daryl’s work, please connect with her on:
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This is Week 23 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks on Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Daryl’s post today!

Shiloh Gastello, Clay Sculptor, Tells His Story

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
 Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland)
 
My work is inspired by the ephemeral nature of the human body and the instability of memory. Memory is vast and incalculable, prone to doing whatever it wants. Even mundane associations can become important moments when recalled through the lens of memory. Recollection of events and things in our lives can become fragile with time, slowly changing until they no longer resemble their original context.
 
 
Harbinger of Hope Series, dimensions from left – 24” tall to 10” tall, wheel-thrown stoneware, iron saturate glazes
The influence of the Arts have allowed me to forge new memories and shape my identity. I began as a painter in 2005, taking classes in my late teens at San Joaquin Delta College in my hometown of Stockton, California. I also took classes in drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. Sculpture became my main focus, as it allowed me to physically wrestle with the materials of clay, metal, and stone to record the imprint of my emotions directly. Realizing that I had found a means of expressing myself and discovering my identity through art, I decided to earn my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of the Pacific in 3D Media. In 3D Studio Art classes, I discovered functional pottery. I was amazed to learn that there was a platform where I could combine my love of painting, sculpting, and my growing appreciation for making functional vessels! After earning my Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Media in 2011, I was excited to expand my knowledge of ceramics and gain a deeper understanding of the medium.
Continuum, ea approx 14” x 5” x 13”, wheel-thrown stoneware, black & white slip
Although I had never lived outside of California, the generosity that I had witnessed in the ceramics community stirred my passion for clay, resulting in my urge to travel and gain more knowledge. I began searching for residencies and assistantships nationally and found a six-month Production Pottery Studio Assistantship at Terra Cottage Ceramics in Paducah, Kentucky in 2013. The artist community in Lowerown Paducah was vibrant and diverse. During my time there, I learned techniques in printmaking, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. More importantly, through the rigor of being a studio assistant, I developed a strong work ethic and a new appreciation for the technical possibilities that clay had to offer. My mentor, Michael Terra, a masterful sculptor and potter, spent months helping me to hone the new skills that I was learning.
 
 
A cart full of tumblers made over the course of 2 days during my 6 month assistantship
I was able to accompany Michael to National Art Festivals and NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) to gain a deeper appreciation of Business Administration in the Arts, including how to discuss art with customers and fellow artists alike. I learned how to run a successful gallery while making thousands of pieces, including how to ship them nationwide. I taught classes on glazing ceramics, and was even able to assist in the communal production of over 1,500 bowls for the Paducah Empty Bowls Project Fundraiser for a local soup kitchen. Michael gave me the tools to grow independently as an artist, and I learned skills that will serve me throughout my life. I left Paducah with valuable and cherished friendships and an increased appreciation for the power of the arts.

 

 ½ of the bowls the Paducah community made for the Empty Bowls Project
After my adventures in Paducah, Kentucky, I sought a return to academia to gain more knowledge in the Arts. This goal led me to the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, OR, where I earned my Post-baccalaureate in 2014 and my MFA In Craft in 2016. During this time, I took advantage of the opportunity to attend residencies at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado. Travel provided me with the time to contemplate on the valuable relationships I was building with the wonderful people I met at these residencies. I treasure those memories.
Rock & Crag Ware Yunomi, ea approx 4” x 3” x 3.75”, hand-built, rock-formed bare porcelain exterior,
satin-matte glaze interior
Working with so many talented artists engrained in me a love of collecting a diverse array of artwork. I often traded my wares for various art objects and mementos that my national art family made, which helped me to better appreciate their impact on my artistic development. It was at this time that I became enamored by the manner in which objects find their way into our lives and accumulate meaning over time. Even simple and seemingly mundane objects develop a rich patina of experience, becoming wellsprings of memory, and symbols of relationships.
 
Contemporary Fine Mingei, 10” x 14” x 5”, slab-built, hand-pinched porcelain, satin-matte glaze
Upon returning from my residency in Colorado, I focused my thesis body of work on locating the emotional value of seemingly mundane objects from my past that carried strong positive and negative associations to me personally. More specifically, I began recording an object’s form by covering it in a blank canvas of porcelain to remove the visual associations of the object’s previous history. I then fired the original object in the kiln to preserve it in porcelain. The loss of the original object illustrates how the function of memory vacillates between clarity and ambiguity, freedom and preservation.
By burning out objects in the kiln and then preserving their form in shells of porcelain, I learned that I was transferring and releasing my negative associations into the work itself. Simultaneously, I was also preserving the positive associations that I had with the objects. I discovered that through the act of releasing objects through fire, I was releasing my own negative associations with those objects and replacing them with fresh associations. Burning out objects served as a way to acknowledge that I had learned from an experience so that I could move forward and build new ones.
If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going…Any Road Will Get You There, 8” x 10′, slab-built porcelain
Upon concluding Graduate School, I was reminded of my favorite childhood book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Young Alice finds herself in a place where all aspects of proper decorum are turned upside down, causing her to respond emotionally or intuitively. It is only when Alice rejects approved social behaviors that she can move beyond her own pre-conceived barriers. I saw Alice’s adventures as a journey of learning to respond more presently to situations. I was inspired by the manner in which she learned to look inward for her answers, reacting to situations intuitively and with an assured sense of self, even after returning to the waking world.
Alice learned to respond without allowing herself to be held back by her own negative associations with those around her. The burned-out porcelain remnants carry the ability to serve as a means of remembrance to learn from the past. Inspired by this revelation, I am reminded to cherish lived experience, learn from my own mistakes, and in the end, move forward with renewed affirmation of self.
Degradation: Symbolic Gestures, 12” x 24” x 10”, hand-built, hand-pinched porcelain, satin-matte clear glaze

Ken Wyner, Photographer, Tells His Story

I have been doing photography as a fine art since I was seventeen showing in group shows at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Of course, even before that I was shooting images. Photography gives me an excuse to slow down and commune with my life. The camera can be a shield that allows you to delve deeply yet be unseen.
At the present time I shoot architecture for clients like Jose Andres and Travis Price, as well as a broad spectrum of commercial clients including interior designers, architects, corporations, and lots of wonderful individuals who dream of being captured by top talent but at basement prices!
I love to shoot even when I am not being paid (most of the time these days)! But the project that my wife, Alice Ng, and I are working on, which has been a very meditative and cathartic process, has been the creation of a series of images called Paving Paradise. It is an idea I came up with as a way to empathize and immortalize the incredibly diverse and tranquil existence that hundreds of people are living in the projected, ugly and mean-spirited path of The Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
I thought the best thing I could do was to do what I do well — to be a witness to events that are ugly and instead show the contrast of all that is beautiful. This is an ongoing project and just as it is, and will be, a very poignant message to those who would callously destroy so much land and gentle ways of being, these images also serve as a tonic to those caught up in this mess.
Most of participants live in the Nelson County area of Virginia, although we are slowly expanding. Our process consists of going into strangers homes and being with the families, animals, architecture, and nature. Weaving it all into a visual narrative, Alice created the website and I did the photography. Our intention is to send the site far and wide, eventually make a book, and to have an exhibition. We want to bring attention to this cause and, in the process, create positive mantras to dispel the negative energy.
Photographs have changed the world. They have changed us as individuals. They give us the opportunity to see who we are, where we are going, and where we have been.

Warren Brown, Cake Artisan, Tells His Story

I feel at ease in the kitchen. I like just about every aspect of being in there. Whether cooking, cleaning, setting up my work or taking a rest sitting at the table, I enjoy what I get out of it. There is a beginning, an end, and the moments in between that change me and my understanding of what I work with. Discovering the meat in the middle is the heart of my curiosity and that drives me.
Baking was not my first love in the kitchen. It was BBQ sauce. Kansas City-style (tomato based), sweet, sticky, smoky on the grill, easily charred. I was inspired by the “Rib-Off” at Mall C in Cleveland back in the early 1980s. Tasting my way through a sea of vendors I began to understand the edge you can get with either better ingredients, more creativity or what seemed like more care put into the product. I was a hungry adolescent. It was the perfect time to start experimenting.
I let my cravings dominate my decisions. But I fence off certain foods so I dont feel tempted—I don’t like guilt over food. That doesn’t mean I dont eat “bad” food, its more about what time of day, how much, and whether or not Im feeling a little too much like blubber on the insides. To me, food is “good” when its a positive experience all of the way. It tastes good and theres no food hangover – no bloating, no cramps, nothing undesired. I like to search for combinations on the plate that pair well and are pleasing to the eye and the tummy.
I think I enjoy baking cakes to indulge the kid in me, but not just the typical cravings for sugar and frosting.  Refined sugar was off limits. My father is a huge inspiration for my method of preparing recipes from scratch, but he limited access to white sugar. I suppose the logic was to restrict sugar from the table to reduce our overall intake. The problem in that era was that sugar was everywhere so unless the meal was made totally from scratch, sugar found its way onto our table. Many meals at home were from scratch, but over time convenience won out, and three decades later diabetes claimed my fathers life.
The first indulgence I discovered about baking is the meticulous work it demands at every stage to create a work of art with many layers, literal and figurative. There is the sponge: what type of batter, prep of the batter for the sponge, perfecting the bake off, cooling and releasing from the pan without loss of volume. There is the filling, my favorite part: custard, caramel, citrus curd, fresh berries, or something else entirely? Then theres buttercream. Early on a good friend of mine got my wheels spinning when she said “theres nothing like a good homemade buttercream” to which I just grunted “yeah” and had no idea what she meant. Here I was an adult, a foodie, and I didnt even know the term. But it told me that the New Years resolution I had made—to start baking in order to learn more about food—was proving beneficial. I found myself immersed in buttercream recipes, stunned at their taste, flavor and deliberate gluttonous nature.
I am compelled to share what I make in the kitchen. I cant possibly eat everything that Im driven to make because that would be simply too much food. I am blessed to be able to share my creations with my family and through my work. Its not all cake and icing at home of course, I save that for work where I can spread out the sharing a little bit more. But the time in the kitchen, the process of creation and discovery of triumphs and tragedies, feeds my soul in the same way. Im grateful to have found this well of inspiration.

Strawberry Shortcake – This cake kind of says it all for my style. Big, irreverent and pushing the boundaries of standard convention. The cake is a vanilla pound cake I called LCD (lower common denominator) since its kinda of accepted that the pound cake is thefavorite, the most beloved, the baseline cake in America. I also cannot stand biscuits for strawberry shortcake. The cream here is Italian Meringue Buttercream which will always be one of my favorite recipes. And the berries are simply cut, sprinkled with sugar and briefly chilled in the fridge –that was my grandmas secret. When put together and taken as one bite this all combines in a desire to stuff-yo-face with more. Now this isnt a discreet way to describe it, but there really isnt another way to say it plainly.

 

 

 

Ginger Pecan Scones – Scones are one of the best products we ever made at CakeLove. I got a base recipe from a good friend who grew up in Holland eating her mothers rendition on the classic pastry. Generally speaking, weve butchered them in the U.S. by stripping out the copious amounts of butter and cream called for in a proper scone. But where cost and qualms over the cardiac impact dont win out, theyre simply divine. The crisp flavors of ginger pair well with pecans while the nuts help develop contrast in texture with the soft, velvetiness of the buttery-cream with each bite.

 

Breakfast Lasagna – As with all things, this was inspired by need. I was deep into the photo sessions for my book CakeLove in the Morning and I realized that I needed a strong, center of the table dish. The books focus I brunch so we already had a lot of to-be-expected stars like pancakes, French toast, frittatas and quiche. Ive always loved lasagna and I get a kick out of turning a dish on its head , so I thought why not take one of my favorite formats for serving dinner and recreate it for the morning. The only overlap with a traditional lasagna are the noodles, but thats enough!

 

 

Colors excite me. I get a lot out of just staring at swatches and thinking about the moods they put me in. One of the things I like the most about my latest project are the different bands of color I got to select for each flavor of CakeLove in a Jar. I know it’s sounds simple and off point of what’s inside, but I really fixate on the collection of colors.

 

What is important to me about our jars is that I found a way to fall in love again with my work. It’s a line of business that’s really different than what I did before, meaning a ton for me to learn. That’s refreshing. Sometimes tiring. But overall it’s an absorbing challenge that allows me to get knee deep in detailed work, which I love to do.

Lisa Bick, Mixed Media Encaustic Artist, Tells Her Story

 

Sometimes my muse may be as simple as the grays, blacks and whites of a sycamore tree’s bark or the high altitude desert plants on my daily hikes in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Other times, inspiration is fired by the painfully beautiful setting sun over the Ganges River on a sojourn there. I find emotional solace in poets from Neruda to Auden and their words find their way into my work as well.
Bittersweet Pilgrimage, encaustic on panel, 30” x 30”
My journey has been long and well traveled. I was raised in Washington, D.C. where I was obsessed with the National Gallery of Art. My parents were history buffs, so they encouraged my love affair with the museums of our capital city. As a child, I knew my direction but not how to navigate my way. I was also deeply impacted by the unrest that simmered throughout Washington during those years. I was swept into protesting the Vietnam War (and consequently tear gassed during a march) and I was present on the Mall with my father during Martin Luther King’s speech. The local riots terrified me and I became politically motivated for the first time in my teenage years. I loved the heartbeat of the city.
I was set to stay in the Washington area after high school graduation when my first real and life altering tragedy struck. My oldest brother committed suicide two days after my graduation. It was an event that would color my world in ways I did not imagine at the time. It has filtered into my work, my dreams, my way of seeing the world as well as the way I was to nurture and raise my own three children. It also made me change my course. My father owned land in Indiana so I quickly decided that summer that Indiana University would be a place where I could escape the pain on my parents faces and the strange quiet that had descended upon us. I moved to Bloomington.
It was in Bloomington that I earned a fine arts degree with a focus on textiles. I found that creating massive silkscreens and woven hangings soothed my grief and gave me another outlet for protest. My early pieces were twisted Navajo patterns or natural objects cocooned in silk threads. I explored photography and photo silkscreens and spent summers in Washington photographing the buildings and iconic places I loved.
Hejira, encaustic on panel, 50” x 40”
After graduation and a young marriage, I briefly lived in London and Houston. I taught art at the secondary level in Indianapolis and then drew my artistic visions into the way I raised three children. I taught them to make paper and outdoor sculptural installations as well as to freely paint, draw, dye wools, plant gardens and act and stage Summer Solstice festivities on our country property. I was a hippie mom and that has never changed. Everything has always been organic and “of-the-earth” in my life. I even bought fleece from local sheep, which I cleaned and spun and dyed to make the sweaters my children wore for years.
In 2010, the stars aligned in a different way for me. I had a desperate need to return to myself and find another road to travel. My marriage ended, leaving deep scars that threatened to drown me on every level. There were days I couldn’t get up the mornings. I grasped at hopes and opportunities and found myself visiting a friend in Santa Fe where I ended up in an encaustic workshop. I was thinking I should return to school and perhaps pursue an MFA when that one weekend transformed me. I was intoxicated with beeswax and the organic nature of it and its smell and the translucency of layers of wax like Arabian Nights’ veils. I’ve always traveled extensively and there was something about the surface of wax that reminded of ancient places of the world. It felt sacred and earthy and I wanted to use it to once again express pain and process and hope and to mark my passage.

Springdrive, encaustic on panel, 60” x 24”
Because of its organic nature, wax can behave differently on any given day, due to pigments, humidity or the level of the heat source used for fusing. There is lots of scraping and smoothing and fussing with each layer of wax but eventually I begin to apply color and design. I often add my own handmade papers or snippets I’ve gathered from travels around the world. I start with deciding whether the work will be “warm or cool” – in other words, reds and oranges and yellows or blues and greens and violets. I find It varies with the seasons. The wax tends to find its own way but eventually we meet in the middle and something connects with a line from a poem or from my own emotional well. I might see a shape that reminds me of something and I follow it. Mistakes happen but I often leave them because I am marked with my own mistakes and wounds and all of that has validity. Through my art I can trace my travels, my turning points and my moments of illumination.
One of my small paintings, “Acid Rose”, emerged due to the landscape drawings of a man I loved once. All I had of him were his landscape designs on papers so I tore them to bits until one day I gathered them back to me and embedded them in wax. This little work became a statement on the subterranean layers of the earth – or the heart.
Varanasi, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 18” x 18”
“Varanasi” tells of my experience on the banks of the Ganges in India. It is a place that enters your soul. Varanasi is the holiest of cities for Hindus. It is desperately beautiful and desperately awful all at the same time. Saris in other worldly colors of saffron and acid yellows are hung out of windows to dry, and bodies are cremated while feral dogs wait for the remains. People chant, rejoice, worship, bathe and leave their loved ones in the river. I floated my little cup with marigolds and candles out into the river’s current as a way of honoring my own dead. A bit of paper I bought there hangs like a shroud from the top of the painting and a boat being oared through the water at sunset made its way into the piece.
Three years ago, I packed up my studio, my dog, two cats and a lifetime of relics and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I found a mountain I can call my own as well as a bright, artistic community. Summers of my past were spent in the south of France with my children and I have discovered that the light, the altitude, the lavender, the grapes, the stone walls and colors of adobe architecture mimic those young giddy days in Provence.
 
 
We Dance on the Swirls of Cloud Tops, Venetian plaster, oil and encaustic on panel, 24” x 24
I will continue this exploration of mine and will continue to tell my story because only I can do that. Here in northern New Mexico, the sky is my water.
Neruda: “This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing.”
Acid Rose, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 14” x 14”
 

 

Jamie Lovern, Artist & Designer, Tells Her Story

 
 
 

 

 
My tale begins my senior year of high school in 1989. I had taken some college classes during my senior year, which had given me college credits so I already had enough credits to graduate. However, by law I had to stay on campus until first dismissal, so I had to take one more class. I chose an art class thinking, “This will be an easy class and just might be fun.” My plan after high school was to attend Manatee Community College for my AA degree then move on to Florida State University to major in Criminology — art was the farthest thing from my mind.
During my high school art class, the teacher started noticing my work and made a recommendation that I should think about a career related to art. I thought she was nuts.

That next fall, I started my classes at MCC. My mom had attended an art show at Ringling College of Art and Design. She was so impressed and thought the show’s work reminded her of the work I did in my one, lone art class. She took me to see the show and I was intrigued. I thought to myself, “Wow! This place is incredible.” I had never thought of a career associated with the arts.

 

 

 

 

My mom looked into me applying to Ringling. I thought, “This is crazy…I took one art class in high school, I am not an artist. Students spend their entire high school years preparing to get accepted into such a prestigious college such as Ringling.” Long story short, I got accepted to attend the following fall.
I loved Ringling! From figure drawing to photography to graphic design – I had found my calling. After four years of intense college courses, I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and was on my way.
Right out of college, I was hired by a design & marketing firm and spent 3 years with them, designing all sorts of marketing materials for clients ranging from Sarasota Memorial Hospital to Teleflex. I even won a Gold Addy Award (American Advertising Award) – A GOLD ADDY is recognition of the highest level of creative excellence and is judged to be superior to all other entries in the category. I won it for my design of a product packaging piece for Seadoo gauges for Teleflex. Little did I know I would be designing packaging for my own company one day. I soon wanted to move on to a larger company and expand my horizons.

 

My next position came at the Sarasota Herald Tribune – I was hired in their Creative Art Department. I created specs and ad campaigns for many clients in a deadline-driven environment for 9 years. I loved creating, but designing 8 hours-a-day in front of a computer for many years was taking its toll. I started thinking of doing something else, but had no clue what or how.
I love to cook and every evening I burned candles while cooking dinner to relax from the day. My husband now, but boyfriend at the time, started noticing this black soot around our apartment from burning regular paraffin candles. He found an article online about how toxic candles are. I was so disappointed…I loved candles! Then he found an article about how people were making candles from this new wax – “soy”. This was back in 2003, when most people had no idea what soy was. I ordered a kit and starting making candles out of old vintage glass I found at Goodwill and giving them to friends as gifts. As soon as they burned them, they saw how clean the candles burned, how much longer than regular paraffin candles they lasted and with no toxic carcinogens. After that, I could not keep up with the demand!
I thought, “Maybe I’ll start a side business and I can do all the marketing and product design.” So I did. And Lolablue was born. “So where did you get the name Lolablue?” is something I get asked a lot. Lola was a nickname given to me by my best bud, Pedro, for my love of Barry Manilow. Blue was chosen for two reasons: #1 is because our planet is called “The Blue Planet” and everything we do within our company is in honor of and respect for Mother Earth, and #2 is because the sky’s the limit!
I have always been a fan of natural products and the benefits of living a clean lifestyle, so how Lolablue is perfect a fit. I continued with my career and worked Lolablue on the side. Being the adventurer that I am, my boyfriend and I took to trip to Vegas and came back married! Yes, on the spur of the moment we jumped on a scooter and got married at a Vegas drive-up window. Best time ever!! I highly recommend it.
We decided to move south to build a house and landed in North Port. We made sure to install a 220V outlet in our garage so I could make candles. Guess what?! I got pregnant! After the birth of our son, I decided to resign from my career to be home with him and slowly build Lolablue.
I spent 4 years working out of our garage while changing diapers, filling wholesale orders, and expanding our product line, all while working farmers markets on the weekends. I did most of my advertising and marketing for our products on social media back then (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were not around – only MySpace), but I landed a featured article about our products from an LA-based magazine and a product spot in a 2009 Pre-Oscar party Swag bags in Beverly Hills.
We moved to manufacturing space in 2011 and never looked back. I have expanded our product line into many different eco-lux products since starting with candles. I formulate every product myself after loads of research and experimental batches, and I believe in divine intervention.
We have natural body bug spray, natural soaps, sugar scrubs, body-hydrating cremes and our newest creation, natural deodorant for sensitive skin. All of our products are hand-crafted in small batches to ensure the highest quality. They are also paraben-free, phthalate-free, gluten-free, and sulfate-free.

 

My husband came on board with the company about 3 years ago. Currently, we have nearly 50 wholesale accounts and growing throughout the US and have plans for landing a large retailer and expanding internationally this coming year.
We have won 3 years in a row “Best of the Best” Green Business from the North Port Sun newspaper. In 2013, our products were featured in MTV Movie Awards Swag bags and we were also a Martha Stewart American Made Product nominee.
Everyday I am grateful for the opportunities that have come our way and happy to see the faces of our customers who have found healing and peace from using our products and eliminating toxins from their environment.
Along my journey to entrepreneurship I have found one quote that is so true and still blows my mind….”Follow your bliss, doors will open for you that you ever even knew existed.”




 

Alexandra N. Sherman, Watercolorist, Tells Her Story

 

 

I have always used art as a tool to process what is going on around and within me. I believe what I now call the landscape of the mind has always been the focus of my work despite my having painted many different subjects. I consider making art a journey, and mine seems to be cyclical. It takes time for themes to emerge as I continue to discover, the seeds for what I am doing now were in my previous work. I often have ideas about what my work means as I am creating it, but it is time and distance that bring true understanding. I continue to re-work old themes but in new ways. Cloud forms and silhouettes, for instance, have made appearances in my work repeatedly, but always in a different contexts. Being able to paint what’s on my mind allows me to make sense of the world, to take things apart, re-arrange them, and reimagine them differently.
As a child, I drew and painted things I was interested in over and over again. In high school, I began  my journey with watercolor by painting signs I drew for pep rallies with a cheap set of Prang paints on copier paper. I can’t think of more frustrating tools with which to work in watercolor, but something clicked for me . . . the transparency, the flow, that lent itself to tiny details, and the jewel-like color. In college, I began painting self-portraits from blind contour drawings. They were odd and surreal. I distinctly remember painting them in a stream of conscious manner, which is something I’ve returned to recently. Although I feel I’ve always had the soul of an artist, I certainly didn’t always have the skills. I spent many years learning to draw and paint,and I am still continuing to do so. This is something I stress frequently in the classes I teach. That art is like anything else, if you want to become good at it, it requires a lot of practice. It isn’t a magical inborn gift, although some of us are born with more facility to begin with.
For many years, I drew rather than painted with watercolor paints. I used them to create miniatures of a sort, surreal landscapes inside silhouettes of women. I started this series in the last year of my MFA program with a painting called Winter Within. My best friend and painting partner had recently committed suicide. She was someone with whom I felt I would have had a lifelong friendship, as we had an understanding of one another that I consider extremely rare. The silhouettes were a way to turn my dark and depressing experiences into something beautiful, and to deal with crippling loss. I find art that rides the line between ugliness and beauty is the most powerful and satisfying to me, as it jolts and soothes the system simultaneously. I painted my friend over and over again, I filled her silhouette with butterflies sucking the life-blood out of flowers, poppies alluding to the glass being half empty, birds in flight and even painted her with a crow on her shoulder in My Dark Side.
My Dark Side, Watercolor on Arches HP, 15” x 11.25”
I think of watercolor like walking a dog in which the length of the lead can be controlled by the push of a button. In the silhouette series, I had the leash in close and the button locked. The watercolor was forced to do my bidding and stay exactly where I put it. In my current work, I’ve let go of the button. Although I still maintain hold of the leash, the watercolor is allowed more freedom to do what it chooses. This interplay between tightness and looseness has taken me years to achieve, as I think it was both a psychological and technical issue. I had to grant myself permission to loosen up. I used to think that if I didn’t paint realistically,I wasn’t proving my worth as an artist, despite the fact that I had long admired the work of many artists who weren’t realists.
At some point the constraints of working tightly and representationally became so painful that I realized I could no longer continue to make work in that way.  I had solved most of the problems with the silhouettes, and I was tired of transcribing visions I saw in my head. Of course, what came out on paper never looked like it did in my mind, and on rare occasions it was better! I found it difficult to leave the Silhouette series behind and move into the unknown. I no longer had fully formed paintings appear in my mind’s eye. What was I to paint? What would it look like? For some time, I created very little, and I worried I would never paint again. I felt stuck and wasn’t sure how to proceed. I needed to learn to experiment again.
In 2011, I had an artist residency in the Luce Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary, for which I will be forever grateful. It gave me the time and space to make work simply for the sake of creating. The stipend allowed me to give myself a pass on making paintings that had to be sold, and it opened the door for experimentation. I had a palette cleanser of sorts. I worked in conte crayon and charcoal on grey paper without much color, which led to the watercolor paintings in the Actus et Potentia series. Looking at them now, I can see a battle happening between the tight and loose manner of working. The twister form became more and more prominent in my work, and would eventually lead to Twists and Falls, a series that explores relationships with others and  my battle with chronic pain.
There be Dragons Here, Watercolor on 4ply gray museum board, 40” x 32”
In 2013, I was invited to teach and use the studio at Welsey where I once again embarked upon experimental work, this time on yupo, which is a synthetic paper made of polypropylene plastic. The Wayfarer and Map for the Eyes series are both painted exclusively on this surface. Yupo’s non-absorbent surface allows for nearly endless paint removal. It facilitates additive and subtractive painting in a way that the smooth and delicate hot press paper I’d used for many years cannot. I let the paint pool on the paper, dropped-in color, and worked in a manner I refer to as controlled chaos. The fact that I could make corrections or wipe everything back to nothing emboldened me in my application of paint. If I didn’t like it, I could start again! In contrast, some of the silhouettes took me upwards of 90 hours each and there was no place for experimental painting in those works.
In my Head, Watercolor on yupo,18” x 26”
Sin Options, Watercolor on yupo, 26” x 40”
Despite the fact that I paint quite differently now, I still remain attracted to lots of negative space around a subject. The white of the paper serves as a resting space for the viewer’s eye. I have (surprisingly to myself) returned to the silhouette recently in Bodies of Water, but they are looser, amorphous beings pulled from my subconscious. Now I start by laying down a few strokes of paint on the paper. I let the focus of my eyes go fuzzy and I begin to see a loose silhouette, sometimes they change position before my very eyes. Being back on hot press paper is a less forgiving surface, but I still employ the additive and subtractive methods I used on yupo to try and carve the figure from the pool of water. It was recently pointed out to me that I am making monotypes, but not printing them. This method of working depends a lot on chance, the weather and temperature can affect the way the paint moves and dries.
Storm is Coming, Watercolor on yupo, 8” x 5″
I’m excited to see where this series goes. I recently bought a large roll of watercolor paper and plan to make paintings that are scrolllike and roughly five feet tall. I can loosely envision what it might look like, enough of a daydream to spur on my exploration, yet undefined enough to leave room for chance and exploration. I will attempt to paint these works vertically on a wall rather than flat on a table, something I have never done before in my 23 years of watercolor. This will cause all sorts of new problems to solve and embrace.
Drifting, Watercolor on Fluid HP, 12” x 9”

Jeffrey MacMillan, Photographer, Tells His Story

 

 

Photo Credit: Seth MacMillan

 

 

Increasingly I find myself moved by music, as I barrel along. For many years I have been a professional photographer. Not surprisingly these two roads had to cross.
Matt Munisteri, The Ear Regulars. NYC, 2016
I just happen to like a style of music that isn’t fueled by sales. Yesterday’s music from long ago, the 30’s and the 40’s, it hits some hidden dusty chord in me. Gypsy jazz, and Swing. The complexity and the energy pull me in.  Musically transported to another era. From a time when talents like Django, Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington glamorously played to large audiences and traveled constantly due to demand for their artistry.
Renaud Crois. Django in June, Northamption, MA, 2016
I am in awe of the musicians who keep this music alive. Truly a labor of love. They are completely inspiring. Their skills at playing these charts, acquired from years of practicing their trade, are completely disproportionate to what they are paid for gigs these days — if they’re paid.

 

Rick Olivarez, Arlington, VA, 2017

 

These photos are a humble quixotic attempt to honor these woefully under-appreciated musical talents. Trying, usually unsuccessfully, to convey more than a simple visual description of them. When successful, some of the emotion/joy they convey on stage is transmitted two-dimensionally.

 

Jeanine Greene, Djangolaya. Rockville, MD, 2016

 

Please support live music. Whatever your taste in music is. Wherever it transports you …. Buy the artists’ CDs. If we don’t support them, who will?
Thanks, so much, for stopping by… Jeffrey
Djangolaya. Washington DC, 2015

 

Evan Christopher, The Ear Regulars, NYC, 2016

 

 

Kristen Arant, aka Drumlady, Tells Her Story

 
 
When I came to DC in 2000, it was no less than epic for me, a Missouri girl just coming out of a bad stint of being stuck in my college town, broke. I was hanging onto an abusive/codependent relationship and working as a pizza delivery driver. I’d already experienced some big setbacks and was no stranger to life. Still mired in grief from these, I couldn’t muster up the courage to leave my college town, so I let myself spiral down until I had lost my job, followed by my rental house (a cute bungalow flat in Columbia MO that I not-so-cutely got kicked out of), and and was sleeping on friends’ couches and eating their canned goods. So I went home, to the suburban lands of St Louis, and I grieved the loss of my innocence for a few days, crying tears into the Mississippi River, until my grandfather stood sternly above me as he never had before. Ever. 
“You need to get yourself together.” He said, brazenly. “You’re breaking your mom’s heart. You have all this talent and you’re wasting your life.You went to college. You need to get a job.” 
My grandfather, who is now 92 and in a nursing home, had never spoken to me in any voice but kind and yielding. So this was new. Really new. And it struck a chord in me. So I started to do some searches for jobs online. In the process, I communicated with a friend who I had started an organization with on campus a couple years prior. “RAW,” it was called. The Radical Alliance for Women. Kelly and I had both been in the journalism school at Mizzou, but she graduated before me, as I became ensnared by a double major: Music (oboe, to be exact), and an interdisciplinary studies major with English, journalism and women studies. 6 years + 2 Bachelor’s degrees = I obviously had no real mentorship in college. 
At any rate, Kelly was working for The Blade, a well regarded and popular gay newspaper in Washington, DC. She was working with a photographer named Cliff, who was married to a man named Pete, who worked as a researcher at the Hotel & Restaurant Employees Union Local 25, which was looking for another Research Analyst. Bingo. 
I don’t know how I did it. But I got that job. They flew me into DC for the first round of interviews and I’ll never forget that visit. Staying at Kelly’s in Brookland (a rundown area then; now you can’t buy a decent house there for less than the high 500’s), I took the metro downtown, got off at Gallery Place/Chinatown and walked to K St. 10th and K to be exact.  And that’s the day I met Henry Moses III. 

 

With Henry at a  protest in NYC
 
 
Henry Moses was the first person I met at Local 25. He had a beautiful face and a wedding ring. I know, because I looked. He laughed freely and heartily and was intelligent and not eager for anyone’s approval. Over the next 7 years, Henry Moses became my friend, mentor and boss; then my lover and partner – we were drummer-activists in the Rhythm Workers Union, and co-workers at Local 25 exposing the misdeeds of the corporations not wanting to allow union organizing on their properties. Then for a little while we were something like enemies; and finally he became a strong supporter of my work with the Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project, or YWDEP (we say “why-dep.”) 
How this all came to pass is part magic. Just getting that job in DC was magic in and of itself. And then meeting Henry – he was like a guardian angel – and my first real mentor. I was 25. Then, when the protests started and people flooded the streets of DC, I saw the drummers. 
My ex boyfriend had given me a drum for college graduation, so I owned one, and I’d played it a lot on my own or with groups of hippies around Missouri. I have a long history in music and dance, including being a tap dancer for 12 years and a competitive dancer (in high school I actually won a chance to dance with the Queen of England, but had to raise the money myself so decided not to pursue it), and of course playing the oboe, a melancholic instrument that is rather obscure in most people’s minds. Still today when I tell people I was an oboe major they often go into a diatribe about the oboe where they instead describe the bassoon. “Oh! Is that the long instrument with the piece that sticks out?” no. no no no! The oboe is the duck in Peter in the Wolf, ya’ll. It’s also the instrument that gives the “A” and tunes the orchestra. No, it’s not a clarinet! okay okay, calming down….
At any rate after I received that drum, I beat it. I was so mad and sad and all I could do was beat my feelings into that drum. 
 
 
YWDEP Hottt – YWDEP girls and mentors performing at The Fridge in 2011
Fast forward to about 2005; In my 5 years since coming to DC I’d already been the Steering Committee coordinator for the DC Statehood Green Party; research analyst at Local 25; outreach coordinator at Good Jobs First; co-founder and organizer of the Rhythm Workers Union; Anti-War organizer (professionally!) at both the Quixote Center and at Code Pink: Women for Peace, an organization that actually fired me (this is another story altogether!). Also I had worked at a start up social justice cafe called Cafe Mawonaj in the Howard University area before it became fancy upscale “Ledroit Park,” and then I was a cook for an elderly couple for $100 a night. So whew. I was exhausted, and could not afford to keep paying for my insulin (I’ve been type 1 diabetic since age 13), so I applied for a job as the Assistant Studio Manager at Joy of Motion dance center in Dupont Circle. Soon after, my wrists started to hurt from doing data entry for hours a day. So I thought up an idea for a summer drumming program for Girls. 
It came out of a realization that happened while I was leading an after school drumming club a middle school on Georgia Ave in 2004. One day, the boys didn’t show. What happened that day kind of blew me away. The girls grabbed their drums with their legs, not “side saddle” like they’d been playing them when the boys were around. And they played them. Loudly and confidently. With the boys around, they barely hit them at all. So, I wrote a grant to the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and I got the it; my friend Alice and I recruited young women by reaching out to schools, churches, youth centers; she created a website and I flyer’d like a champ. We called it the Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project (YWDEP), and ran the program that summer out of DC’s beloved All Souls Church. 
 
Sistas – YWDEP 2009 graduates
 
 
The girls who came to the program that first year are now in their mid and late twenties but I remember each of their respective magics as clear as day. One was quiet and smart with a lot to say; one was hurt, but resilient and open; two were incredibly naturally talented; one was rock solid and the other was 17 and the primary breadwinner for her mom and sisters. One was extremely shy. 5 in all. They went through something that summer, as did I. Through writing to find their voices, and learning to drum to release their fears, their authentic selves began shining through. I didn’t realize how profound this experience would be for them, for myself, and for the audiences that saw them perform that fall at the DC Arts Center. Deep corners of their consciences came through their poetry and knocked audiences out. Their sheer talent became a sword cutting through all the bullshit they had faced up until that moment in their lives. And we all witnessed this – a true right of passage for these young women. Awe-inspiring. 
Indeed, I did not know what to expect when I began the program. But after that first year, there were 5 more years like that, each group with different young women, each with different experiences. And I took it on myself to study the drum in a serious way, to learn everything I could about the djembe, it’s roots, it’s rhythms, it’s notes and sounds and the kind of spirit required by a person who chooses to play it. 
 
YWDEP Fanga – from the YWDEP performances 2008
 
In 2007, after 2 years of being like the father many of these girls never had, my soul mate Henry Moses died on Oct. 25th. For months he had been complaining about issues with his gut, which was swollen. We thought it was due to his switching HIV medications. But then his breathing became labored. He got a chest X-ray and the doctor said it looked like he had shards of glass in his lungs. The folks at GW did their best, I guess… but they really missed the ball for the first 4 or 5 days. When they finally found the cancer, and figured out it had started in his pancreas, moved to his liver and stomach, then attacked his lungs, it was just way too late. Henry went into cardiac arrest when they put him under to probe for the cancer. Then he went into sepsis. The last time I saw him “alive,” he was hooked up to so many tubes and machines I could barely look at him. This man was a mentor, warrior – someone who loved me fully for who I was and who supported all of my crazy projects and who told me I needed to “get out of my own way” (still working on that one). Another friend showed up that last night, and we sang “3 Little Birds” to Henry. His eyes responded, with a small wink. I told Henry it was okay if he needed to go. So the next day, he pulled the tubes out of his throat (I only heard about this, but it was completely believable.) He said “I didn’t want it to be like this.” And then he died. 
Henry was someone who wanted to die in the woods. He identified as a Pagan, a queer, a musician, a brother, an activist, an intellectual, an artist. 
 
Bele Bele Birchmere – Bele Bele Rhythm Collective before our performance at the Birchmere, 2015
 
 
I had a son about 4 years ago, and had to give YWDEP a rest for a few years. Henry always wanted to go to the continent (Africa), so I went for him. I’ve been back several times with my husband Kweku, taking tours and drumming up business for the craftworkers Kweku grew up with in the Arts Center of Accra, Ghana. We have a pop up shop in DC where we sell these in support of the community, and are currently also building an artist’s home for the craftworkers. Meantime, I lead a performance group of women drummers, as well as groups of drummers at All Souls church and many area schools. My stories from my time in DC as an activist and creator of projects have each a beginning, middle and end which I hope to tell in much more detail with a book in the near future. 
Sometimes I say the drum has made my life rich. I could say that with each challenge I’ve faced, the drum has a magic dust that seems to spray off of it when I play, which makes things turn out okay. This could be true; but  there is no denying that playing the drum brings beautiful people into my life, and the relationships I’ve built with these folk is the true magic. Ashe. 
 
Kristen & Kwe in Ghana 2011
 
 
Note: (Except for Henry Moses III and Kweku, the rest of the names in this story have been changed to respect people’s anonymity). 

Krista Bjorn, Pyrographer, Medieval Folklorist & Writer, Tells Her Story

 
 
 
 
For most of my life I thought I was the only one in my family who wasn’t artistic. My Dad did leatherwork and photography, Mum painted, crocheted, embroidered, you name it, my brothers could draw, build anything, and even sew. I always wished I could be an artist, it seemed like such an amazing thing to be, but I accepted what I thought was my lot in life and instead became a writer.

 

 

 
 
I wrote stories and poems, clues for treasure hunts, limmericks for friends. When I got older I wrote travelogues and magazine articles, newspaper columns and books, online pieces on food, medieval life, travel, and self-sufficiency.
 
I loved it, still do, but every time I went to a gallery or exposition I felt a longing for artistic expression and wondered if artists knew how lucky they were to be able to do what they did.
 

 

 
 
Then I had what my husband and I describe as the Great Darkness. Others might call it a breakdown, an undoing, depression, PTSD. Regardless of the label, all I knew was that everything in me crumbled and I was utterly lost and didn’t know how to be found. All the darkness I’d been pushing down over the past two decades came in like a hurricane, forcing me to face it and deal with it.
And I did.
I faced the religious cult that abused and brain-washed me. I faced the molesters who thought it was OK to touch me knowing I was too broken to stand up to them. I faced the church that crushed my spirit and made me believe I was worthless and unlovable. I faced those who covered up the abuse or downplayed it because it made them uncomfortable and afraid. I faced all the shame and loss and betrayal and abandonment, and I grieved and raged and forgave and loved and somehow, amazingly, found the brave, loving, jolly, creative me that had been there all along.
 

 

 
 
During that time my husband, Bear, introduced me to the world of medieval enactment. It became a safe place for me to watch and learn and experiment as I faced the sad things and healed.
 
I got to research and  learn about medieval art and medicine, food and clothing, how they ate, lived, fought, loved, and believed. I went from not knowing much of anything to designing and making medieval clothing, building medieval furniture, and growing and harvesting fruits, herbs, and vegetables to brew medieval wine and make traditional foods and folk medicines. I tested, experimented, photographed, and documented everything, and last year published a book of medieval folk remedies.  I also learned wood-burning, known as pyrography, a medieval craft where hot metal is used to burn designs into wood. It is my happy place, a soothing, gentle craft that is almost meditative in its cadence. Whenever I’m stressed and anxious, a session of wood-burning never fails to calm me down, help me focus, and get me back on track.
 

 

 
 
Soon I was selling wood-burning and books at medieval events, markets, and online, and one day it hit me: I am an artist. I’ve always been an artist. I just needed to heal enough to make a safe place for my artist self to emerge. It makes me smile every time I think of it. I’m a photographer and writer, pyrographer and medicine-maker, recipe-developer and home brewer. In the end it all boils down to this: I love making things and sharing them with others.

 

I continue to write and take pictures and burn original images into wood. I’m working on a book of medieval Bedouin recipes, another on medieval spices, and am creating new designs to pyrograph. This year I hope to expand my wood-working skills by designing and making my own wooden implements and furniture to wood-burn.
 

 

 
 
My heart is full as I look back on all the goodness that came out of the Great Darkness.
 
 
 
 

Anita Wexler, Mixed Media Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

 

I grew in a small town in Illinois; surrounded by cornfields and pastures. It was a nice quiet place to grow up in. It was scenic and beautiful, though unfortunately my family didn’t embrace the arts. When I was five years, I wanted to be a ballerina and my family just laughed. A few years later, I wanted to learn to play the piano and my mother asked me, “Do you see a piano anywhere?” So I realized my resources were pencils and notebook paper. I would draw and doodle in my classes to help me to focus. Eventually, my art teacher gave me a few pieces of drawing paper and that was my start as a visual artist.
I loved my small farm town but I just dreamt of more. I wanted to explore the different cultures and locales around the world so I joined in the U.S. Navy after high school when my parents made me turn down an art scholarship. I endured some rough times, but thankfully I ended up moving to New York City where I attended Parsons New School of Design and Bank Street College of Education, after receiving a scholarship that paid half of my tuition. Later, I went back to school and received my M. Ed from National Louis University.
My art is a reflection of my life on a personal level. I have faced financial, emotional and heartache just like so many others and my paintings are chunks of time on canvas or paper. I have travelled to over 30 countries; however, I have so many more places that I want to visit. 
My artwork is influenced from my travels and from my mentor, Philipp Valy out of New York, as well as by the Masters, Hieronymus Bosch, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst. From this I have created by own style of of “Primitive Pop”. 
My Native American roots echo through my artwork as I create outdoor sculptures in my ‘Totem Series,” which is a contemporary twist of Native American totem poles, my drawings and my paintings. 
 
I am a mother of three amazing children, who are my biggest inspiration. My hope is that I will make them proud of me. I am an Art teacher at a High School and a full-time artist/illustrator. I teach my students drawing, painting, and other art forms. 

Jane Hickey Caminos, Activist Artist, Tells Her Story

 

I’m a Brooklyn born Jersey Girl who wanted to become a famous artist, or maybe a Rockette, before I was five. Walls were my canvas, crayons my brushes. Sound familiar? I liked to draw funny things because they were easier than realistic ones. My people stood in tall grass with their hands in their pockets. Uh huh. I planned on a career working for Walt Disney.

Fear  36×18

I was about as political as a kneaded gum eraser. Whomever my father voted for, so did my mother. That’s the way it was in the 50s. The assassination, followed by Vietnam, forced more emotion into the 60s. It was a perfect time to go off to art school. I went to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with long-ish blonde hair grown for the occasion. I was going to be a beatnik with an apartment painted black; I’d walk down Benefit Street snapping my fingers. Black turtleneck, black tights, and the required black beret. Beatniks morphed into hippies, so I added beads.

Saint Malala  28×29

‘Nam crashed a lot of dreams in the late 60s. Boys from high school were stepping on mines, and art school guys were starving them-selves as thin as skeletons to shock the draft into stamping them 4F. Beatniks turned into Hippies and then into Peaceniks overnight. Artists took to the street in protest with everyone else except we had better signs.
There weren’t enough kids left to draft so a lottery was introduced. Low numbers went to war, high numbers did not, unless their grades were bad. I became as political as any other young woman, afraid her boyfriend would be swept away.

Grenade  24×30

We worried through the ‘Hell No We Won’t Go’ years, sought God via acid trips, got married because those were the rules. Some of us became photographers who documented all the efforts, others painted out their angst. I was humiliated because I wound up knocking out cherubic greeting cards, on the bottom rung of the ladder of cool. And as many of my generation discovered, mining for a Heart of Gold or not, things weren’t working out the way we were promised.
Time Has Come  14×16

Stomping Toward Feminism

 
No famous painter dwelling in Greenwich Village, just a mortified RISD BFA churning out “cuter neuters” as we called them in the Game of Cards. The only artistic trick I picked up was how to be neat. I longed to make a fortune as a fancy pants magazine illustrator like Bernie Fuchs. Madison Avenue, a real life Mad Men four-martini lunch, that was me. Except it wasn’t. Not in Newtonville living in a two family.
I watched from above (as those of us blessed with fertile imaginations can easily do) as the whole construct imploded. I was numb, eroded, and left standing in line with everyone else in a casting call for “Who Will You Be Now?”
Rage    16×20
The seventies were a decade of shifting identities. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my new persona was that of a militant feminist complete with feigned loss of humor, taking on androgyny as a costume, which was boring but the boots were good. My ‘Nam era’ leftist stance easily slid into Take Back the Night marches for women’s rights. It was then that I made a commitment to paint women. Only women. Not beautiful, nubile model types but the women nobody bothered honoring; aunts, neighbors, grandmas at weddings. I told their stories, in a usually humorous manner and always with affection. Political art without stridency.
World Upside Down   22×26
 
By the late 80s I was encouraged by my life partner, Chris, to exhibit. It’s one thing to put commercial work out there, the kind you may produce to make a living, but the stuff that arrives from the soul, is another matter. Some of you must agree!
Picked   24×30

A Reputation?

 
A number of years passed, my health dipped down and moreso: in becoming disabled, a newfound empathy for those in worse shape than I kept me in balance. So I kept painting women, groups, trios, duos, stand alone’s, surrounded by convenient props . . . fruits, pasta, fish . . . whatever  could fill up that white space in the background. Exhibits were well attended. People bought. Sometimes. ‘Jane Caminos: Narrative Painter of Women’ had found a gimmick.
Three in One   24×30

2012 Changed Everything 

 
One evening, half asleep with PBS dutifully tuned in: a documentary about women’s rights was showing, specifically detailing the gang rape of 23 year old Jyoti Singh by 5 men in Delhi. She was cast aside, and died from sepsis two weeks later. Tears of rage came as a surprise, as did finding my fists were clenched. I’m not an emotive personality but here was a story that cycloned a fury complete with yelling at the flat screen.
A Leader Emerges   24×30
That night in the NJ rental house I vowed to devote the remainder of my painting life to exposing violence against women across all cultures by telling their stories as I found them. On Women Bound was born on the easel the following morning. I became an activist artist.
At first the promise to work for change sounded simple: I made a list of terrible things that I knew were happening to women, mostly those living in third world countries. YouTube and Google yielded videos, images and articles from periodicals around the globe. Events out there were worse, much worse, than my white bread upbringing had imagined, the scope of the project ahead grew in size but also in importance. How much should I show on the canvas? Did I want to shock or tell these stories without the blood and guts, which to some ways of thinking could be construed as exploitive? What would you do? After all, if the ultimate goal of On Women Bound was to help (in my small way) victims become the victorious, what would that entail?
Three Each Hour   22×26
There have been subjects, such as the cultural rite of passage, FGM, Female Genital Mutilation, that have been wrenching to depict. I’ve painted fear of rape instead of actual rape, although one in three women will be raped in their lifetime. I’ve yet been unable to handle stoning, breast ironing, or beheading. Trafficking explodes as a worldwide money maker for villains of all stripes, even in suburban America, where we don’t believe blonde daughters will be kidnapped on their way to school. They are.
Sometimes goodness helps to balance evil, such as providing micro loans to impoverished women, or women taking to the streets to protest rape, or corporate takeovers of mining that otherwise would be supporting whole villages, or bravely forming barricades to block weapons of war from moving forward. I’ve included these stories of defiance to see-saw the acid wrecked faces, murdered female infants, and child brides.
Do you think I’m preaching to the choir?  Will exhibiting paintings of women’s troubles ignite a dialogue among those who see the work, as I hope?  Can I reach the “right people” and assuming I do, what then will these right people do about it?  Discuss in shocked voices over a nice Pinot how terrible things are in Africa? And so? Change happens step by step, at least I hope it does.
Awareness is the first step, so that’s what I do and I hope that someone out there will choose to share On Women Bound with a bigger audience than I can reach alone. It has long been the responsibility of artists to work toward making positive change where possible, and as hokey as that may sound, it carries historical weight. The list is long and glorious.
Manna from Heaven   24×30
I worried that taking on the role of Activist Artist might peg me as the humorless leftist I once played at being, leaving me responding to like types, but instead, through social media, I’ve renewed contacts and discovered hundreds of supporters who let me know when I’ve hit the nail, gone too far, or have made no impact at all.
It’s with your help that I’m assured I’m not working alone, although there are days at the easel when Alone is all there is: Jane hunched over with the Three-0 brush talking with a suffering woman in India who has lost her ten-year-old daughter to kidnappers. How can a middle aged white woman, an only child with none of her own, relate to this sadness? I stroke her cheek, her fingers, choosing colors for her clothing I think she might like. Art as comfort.
Because I’ve been fortunate to have found a voice for change doesn’t mean you have to, but look at the mess we’re in. I never in a million nights dreamed I’d see a TV show that would change my life’s focus.
Warning   24×30
Yes, I still produce paintings from the original narrative series of beloved women. It’s ‘painting happy’, a necessary break from On Women Bound and its inherent pain. My reference files fill a back up drive and two boot boxes, and just when I think I’ve got enough horrors to overwhelm my Mac, the news brings another tragedy, followed by another and we understand that every war brings genocide and a generation of children who will never understand the delight of laughter.

 

Veronica Szalus, Industrial Design, Sculptor, Tells Her Story

 

My path to creating installation art has been influenced by my studies in industrial design and a deep interest in creating environmental pieces that explore the both the conceptual and physical phenomenon transition. I am fascinated by the fact that everything, at all times, is in a state of evolution. From the macro to the micro, nothing is permanent, and as a result we have created a framework in our lives that revolves around consistency.

 

Chexok

 

Consistency is what we hold on to, even have to hold onto, but nothing is ever the same. You wake up every morning, and everything might seem the same, but much has changed – cells in your body have been created and cells in your body have died. The sun has risen, but at a slightly different time each day and cloud cover can vary greatly from moment to moment – and so on.
Newsprint in Transition
I have always gravitated toward art and design. Starting out on a smaller scale I studied jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology immediately after graduating high school. My work in jewelry quickly became very sculptural and soon I felt confined by the scale of the works and started create site specific sculptures and structures including crawling insects, clothing racks and small display systems made from spare parts. Then I went back to school to study industrial design at Pratt Institute. This changed everything, whole new ideas, concepts and ways of thinking unfolded.

 

Permeable Intersections

 

While studying industrial designs. I became fascinated with materials, and in particular pushing the boundaries of materials. What if I could make a single piece of paper, 1/8” thick, 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide stand in an upright vertical position, on its own, without an armature or any visible external support. And then what would this paper look like in a day, week, month, etc. This is where my influence in industrial design began merging with concepts for experimental installations driven by a desire to try out any idea that crossed my mind. I often create mockups testing a concept and I am convinced my neighbors think I am crazy.
Tilted Soul
I am continuously seeking to develop my work through volume and scale, new forms, and observation of the intersection of natural and manufactured materials that can be new or reused. Through the use of material I embrace fragility, balance and porosity; I am mesmerized by subtle and overt shifts caused by the impact of time. For inspiration I often take long walks in wooded areas along the Potomac River and then mill around hardware stores and salvage centers such as Community Forklift. When I can I visit the ocean for clarity and perspective. Currently I am excited about increasing the use of natural materials in my work.
Twisted Wall
Observing and interacting with new concepts, forms, and space layouts by artists, designers and architects, are major drivers for me. I was transfixed by the installations at the Renwick Gallery Wonderexhibition, and in particular the works of Chakaia Booker, Tara Donovan, and Patrick Dougherty.  I am inspired by the vision, architecture and engineering of many individuals, including but not limited to Santiago Calatrava, Renzo Piano, and the recently deceased Zaha Hadid. And, I am constantly reminded that new concepts and expressions of creativity evolve every day by all types of people, right here in the Washington DC metro area, as well as everywhere throughout the world. This is very compelling to me.

 

Soul of a Tributary

 

To me an artist is an individual who seeks creative outlets to explore and express observations, influences, and ideas. It is an exciting and very enriching state of mind that embraces the freedom to experiment and take risks.
At Work in the Studio

Alan Binstock, Sculptor, Tells His Story

 

My sculptor’s career was informed by a career as architect at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. I had continued exposure to near and deep space images as well as a bit of quantum physics, which are all powerful influences on my work.  My fascination with glass, resin, and degrees of transparency is sparked by observations of apparent/outer forms and inner/subtle forms that are revealed by the telescope and microscope. As a layperson, I can both celebrate the frontiers of science and take poetic license with scientific theory in the creation of sculptural experience.

 

Pilgrim’s Quandary, Glass & Stainless Steel, 210 x 120 x 48”
I was born and raised in the Bronx. My formal fine arts education began in New York’s High School of Music and Art, followed by undergraduate studies in Fine Arts at Hunter College. After teaching Fine Arts in a South Bronx Junior High School, and a year of travel, I settled in Boulder, Colorado, developing sculpture and jewelry of wood, stone, silver and deer antler. While working at a local foundry, I was exposed to all phases of wax modeling, bronze casting and finishing. I worked as a carpenter, building homes, and later as a cabinetmaker for a sailboat manufacturer, learning about finely crafted details.

 

Totem, Resin, Glass & Stainless Steel, 3 x 3 x 108”
At this time (1972) I became a student of Yoga, and later a teacher and Director of the Boulder Integral Yoga Institute. This pursuit was continued at the Satchidananda Ashram in Connecticut. I made conceptual models for an ecumenical shrine, which focused activities on architecture in later years.

 

Ribbon of Life, Resin, Glass & Stainless Steel, 180 x 36 x 36″

 

A four-year graduate program at the University Of Maryland School Of Architecture gave me a new perspective in three-dimensional design. Before Master Planning at NASA, I worked for many years as a Registered Architect and Project Manager in several area firms. This ongoing education in construction methods and materials, and my exposure to quantum physics and Eastern metaphysics are a continuous source of rich subject matter over these past fifteen years of exhibiting sculpture, and large public art. 
Terra-M, Resin, Glass & Painted Steel, 24 x 48 x 96”
There is a moment in the film, Powers of Ten*,when the camera, as observer, zooms out to reveal the depths of the universe, and zooms back in to the smallest sub-atomic stratum where, like the deep space image a vast emptiness prevails with the most minimal suggestion of light and movement. These notions that life on the most grand and smallest scale may be as much about energy as matter and an overwhelming sense of awe are the very underpinnings of my sculptural endeavors. My fascination with macro and micro visualizations of our universe and the oneness of our living planet as a self-contained universe are expressed in my glass and steel sculptures, which range from 9” to 19’ high. 
Wayfinder, Resin, Glass & Carbon Steel, 228 x 120 x 96”
Light is captured, bent, magnified. Radiance becomes a part of my palette, engaging the changing qualities of daylight to inform and enrich these sculptures.  I investigate forms that express the nature of the seeker’s inner passage while capturing the wonder of the explorer’s outward search to find meaning in the universe.

 

My goal is to catalyze a sense of excited inquiry and quietude, and hopefully, a moment of self-reflection.

 

The Dance, Resin, Glass & Carbon Steel, 228 x 120 x 96”

Gina Elliott Proulx, Photographer, Tells Her Story

 

 

I went to college much later than my peers. I was in my mid-thirties as I sat in visual journalism classrooms at the University of South Florida, in St Petersburg. I’d like to say that the reason I often overthink things is my somewhat recent foray in higher learning. But the truth is, I’ve always spent more time within than without. Which is odd, because there are many who consider me gregarious and outgoing. But those who spend more time with me, know that only comes in fits and spurts. I spend just as much alone time — recharging from it, as I do actually swinging, metaphorically, from the lamp shades. 
 
 

 

I never knew why I was the way I was, or even clearly identified it, til I came to understand a very specific definition of a word: Mediation.  I say a specific definition, well, uuuh SPECIFICALLY, because there are many ways to define things. In my case, mediation refers to how I interact with the world and people and events. I always put something between my personal firewall and the environment at large. As a young child, I used pets as my talisman, between me and an often violent and dysfunctional environment in my home. I look through old photographs of me as a child, and it’s hard to find me without some furry friend in the frame.

Later, as a teenager and young adult, it was music that provided my bridge to understanding my surroundings. I carried music, and a camera with me as I served in the military. I even managed to earn a living within my passion, as a civilian radio broadcaster for several years before I finally found the ability to pursue a college education. And throughout all that, I also had my camera to mediate new relationships and experiences. 

 
 

 

 

Marriage and parenthood came later than most for me, as well. And like every aspect of my life, it too has been well-mediated, again through photography. In fact, the waters of adulthood and parenting are just as challenging to me some days as that of my early days of shooting, where I had no idea what to do, or what the definition of ‘good’ might be.

 
Parenting a child with almost invisible special needs is just hard enough to call it ‘difficult’ at times, and just easy enough so that not everyone realizes you’re doing it. Like a camera, there are days that it’s possible to put the kid and the gear into ‘automatic’ and roll through a pretty productive day shooting, literally and figuratively.  
 

Then ‘those’ days crop up. The ones where the meter readings are fuzzy, and it’s hard to know where to set the camera’s controls for the best hope of capturing light the way you see it in your mind’s eye. The best plan is to always try to measure what one can see, and hope for the best exposure outcome. That’s what my cameras have taught me, anyway. 

 
 
 
 

I photograph anything I can, whenever I can. What I am exposed to in life is constantly changing. From time spent  overseas, where I photographed ancient ruins, to later years shooting live concerts sometimes with real rock stars, to the day to day life of parenting and marriage: I’d be lost trying to understand it all, without my mediation devices.. My cameras..  It’s my therapy, in a very real sense.

Later years have brought more opportunity to mediate my life as a parent through photography, as I professionally document a summer boys camp in Maine.  I’ve learned the most about myself, and how best to parent my child through the many weeks I’ve spent photographing that camp each summer. It may be that all my camera handling has led up to this photography experience now — time will tell. After a childhood best described as one to be glad that ‘one survived,’ I now can see what I missed, and am thankfully able to give it — ironically, also through my efforts in photography, to my own child.

It’s a simple concept really — but very important. It’s how to play.  Sure, we all played as kids.  I still play, but not like some. Through my lenses, I’ve watched and learned from children and my own child, at camp — what it means to truly let go, and PLAY.

 
It is ironic that I watch and learn this silently, alone, and typically at least 200mms away, is not lost on me. Letting go, as many already know, is the key to connecting with people, whatever the age. My son is learning how to do that now, as a child. It’s my hope and expectation that the skills he learns through this summer-long camp in Maine will be the foundation I never got, how to BE within the confines of PLAY. I believe it’s one of the bedrock skills of happy adults.  
 
 
 

I will continue to work on this project about the importance of PLAY for the next several years. Camps are an integral part of my photographic exploration, but not the only venue. Live music still holds my best personal window into how people can lose themselves, and find themselves all at once, also a kind of play. Nature also suggests this possibility. I plan to manifest an openness about seeking out more ways to visually speak about the importance of play. And through the mediation of my cameras, I hope to understand more about myself in the process.  

 
 
 
 

Wanda Fleming, Artisan Soap Maker, Tells Her Story

 
 
 

Once Upon A Bubble
 
 
The moment of this gesture makes it all worthwhile: A young woman walks to the table which is piled precariously high with soap— circles, rectangles and squares, all redolent with heady scents. She carefully eyes the entire landscape, and then plucks a favored one. Holding the bar, she inhales it, closes her eyes and sighs. In that moment, I am in heaven.
 
 
 
Love in the Time of Van Gogh
 
 
 
 
When I was a young girl I wanted to be a spy and detective of superhero note, a White House pastry chef, and a writer—all in no particular order. Today, I create a line of over thirty artisan soaps in my River Girls Soap studio. My work reflects the nuances of each of those once fantasized careers — the persistence of a detective to find a blue azure dye that recalls sea glass; the tenacity of a chef to design and redesign the best recipe for a salty air scent, and the wordsmith laboring of a writer to describe just so, a fragrant soap and the experience it evokes. 
 
River Girls Soap reflects my personal intersection of a wish for a life of quiet work and the daily chance to create for others a heady slice of simple joy.
 
Artist Contortions or Multitasking to Nirvana
 
Soap crafting is a vocation that requires a great deal of patience, an impeccable nose sense like those perfumers of ancient times possessed, a designer’s eye for hue, and an ability to brainstorm names.
 
 
 
Confetti Betty
 
 
 
 
The extraordinary marriage of science and art is what makes it interesting. Making it work as a business is an entirely different animal. In a given day, the process may encompass everything from the vital drudgery of lifting and chopping heavy blocks of plain glycerin soap to grating pounds of fresh chocolate scented cocoa butter, to measuring and blending fruit and nut oils. Perhaps the most jubilant and time-consuming task involves perfume blending and fragrance creation.
 
From an eyedropper, I squeeze droplets of scents onto paper strips. I am forever hoping to create something unusual or provocative. For every attempt that falls flat, surprises invariably arrive. Sometimes these creations will sit in the dark for days and weeks to cure.
 
 
 
Ginger Kisses
 
 
 
 
My studio armoire houses over 200 amber glass bottles of fragrance and essential oils – all wanting to be blended and tinkered with. These oils may come to me from as far away as Egypt or sunny California. They may smell of rose geranium or blood oranges. When I cannot dream of anything fresh and new, I lie on the wood floor, open bottle upon bottle, and simply close my eyes.
 
The Utter Surprise of It
 
The act of unmolding or cutting into a loaf of soap is the most satisfying of all. It is the Christmas equivalent of tearing wrapping paper from a gift. I never know what will greet me until the suction push from the mold’s cavity or that first press of a cold steel knife to a loaf.
 
Every bar and loaf is different. Like a sunset or fireworks display, the appearance can never be truly replicated. How the design appears, the manner in which swirls fall and weave, and what colors choose to pop or recede are a one-time show. Now you see it; now you don’t. Indeed, you can never make the same bar twice — ever. To me that uniqueness embodies the craft’s highest beauty.
 
 
 
Meant to Bee
 
 
 
Naming Names
 
 
The naming of soaps often involves a trigger. Triggers arrive whenever they wish, perhaps after a thunderstorm sweeps through the backyard, in a cellar box of forgotten letters, or in a patch of pulpy sweet blackberries.
 
 
Each batch I pour maintains its own mood and character. Its name must reflect that. Artisan’s soaps should suggest who they are and what they might be in that long hot shower ahead. Often, it is not enough to say simply, Rose soap, for indeed, what kind of rose? Is it the kind the first person who broke your heart recalls? The rose of the backyard bushes of childhood barefooted hide and go seek games? Or could it be the rose left anonymously drying between the pages of an abandoned flea market book?
 
 
 
Cobalt Doves
 
 
 
 
P.S. Love Your Craft with No Apologies
 
 
The most challenging part of being an artist is clarifying foremost to yourself your work’s worth in heart, not hard currency. Why do you do what you do? The answer is most imperative not for the world, but for you. I was never trained for the soap crafting I engage in daily, yet I love my work. It sprang from accidental interest, and turned earnest with an unexplainable intensity. I dream persistently now in scents and colors.
In the early years, I felt embarrassed by the deep resounding joy my pursuit gave me. After all, I held two degrees so shouldn’t I be advising some rogue politician how to get your vote, or hunkered down in a lab, discovering the cure for what ails you most?
 
 
More than a decade later I can say confidently that an education is for all of life’s pursuits be they commercial, scientific, artistic or family. I think when we send our educated out only in the pursuit of corporate and material gain, then it sends a message that artistry — be it painting, literature or artisan endeavors — is of is of little value in our society. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ultimately, it is the beauty in such simple things as a shower, eyes closed, with fragrant soap that offers the brief serenity for the arduous hours to come.
 
 
 
Peony ’63

 

 
 
 
In June, River Girls Soap celebrated its 15th anniversary!



Beatrix & Peter

 

Deb Lyons, Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 

It’s been fun and inspiring to read “Artists Tell Their Stories” this year. I’ve found similarities in so many stories, and fun differences in quite a few, too.
I’m Deb Lyons and I describe myself as an artist and an art educator.  I knew from a very early age that I wanted to grow up to be an artist. In the early 1950s that meant painting in abstract ways, wearing black turtleneck sweaters and hanging out with beatnik friends at jazz venues, or at least I thought it did.
Acrylic & mixed media
I was very lucky, as a child, to have a supportive family who indulged my wish for art lessons every summer. What a joy those creative days were. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any “art career” counseling during high school, so I thought that I should get a college degree in some area that I could fall back on during any “lean times” in my art career.
 
I enrolled in a well-known but small teacher’s college where everyone’s major was education and, of course, my minor was art. I had such a great time and, to my surprise, was totally bitten by the teaching bug.
 
 
Acrylic & mixed media
Fast forward a few years and I found myself with a dream job; teaching 1st through 8th grade art in a University Lab School during the day and going upstairs and teaching undergrad and grad students at night. A lovely bonus was having my two daughters as students throughout their elementary and middle school years. 
 
 
The creative energy of my colleagues was magical. The research and curriculum development was an all-year endeavor and it left little time or energy for my own art work. To fix this, I eventually found a teacher and co-hort of adult students that I met with once a week (for a number of years.) Life was good.
 
 
Acrylic & mixed media
We all have our ups and downs, though. I found that I had a light case of breast cancer. I was surrounded by support and love but still needed to work through all that was going on. I found that large canvases became my breast cancer journals.

 

Acrylic & mixed media, from the breast cancer series

 

 
Using acrylics, surgical sutures, knives, lace and found objects, I was able to travel from darkness to light. I became part of a clinical drug trial and it is a joy to see that what was experimental then is a common part of breast cancer treatment options today. I’m happy to report that I’ve been cancer free for almost 20 years.
 
 
I’ve since been able to share my journey by exhibiting these mixed media pieces in a variety of venues. 

 

Large acrylic, lace, surgical suture & mixed media from the breast cancer series

 

 
Today I am still in love with creative explorations and teaching. My new students are adults at my local Easter Seals Adult Center. The joy is palatable, the successes are celebrated, and the friendships are deep.
 

 

“Xela Wins at Keeneland” Quilt, cotton fabrics, cotton batting

 

 
When Brenda approached me about posting on the blog I asked if I could share my story this week. December 10th is my Mother’s birthday. She passed away almost two years ago. She was an enthusiastic supporter of all of my artistic endeavors and I thought that this might be a small way to honor her memory.

Stephanie Heidemann, Authentic Voicework Singer & Instructor, Tells Her Story

The Tao does nothing, but leaves nothing undone.”
 
I am a singer, a lover and listener of nature … a woman, a poet, a mother.  My relationship with music has been that of a “conjurer”, rather than an obsession with notes running through my fingers and vocal cords. My passion is demonstrated through my voice. I have made many choices in commitment to the conjuring of music as energy, a divine partnership with the muse that is my beloved. A dear friend of mine (who was a devotee of Sri Satchidananda Swamiji) once said “why sing for people when you can sing for the gods?” That is my purpose, and a calling that haunts me when I don’t listen to it.
“Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make
 manifest the glory of God that is within us.”

 

-Marianne Williamson, Return to Love  

 

 

The Resonance Founders, Julian Douglas & Stephanie Heidemann

 

My first experience hearing this type of music for the very first time was sitting in the woods of southern Indiana, in early spring, with drummer friends. I was 20 years old.  While they played the drums, I began to hear a song within the rhythmic pattern.

And within the pattern, a tune that taunted me: “dum-da-dum-da-dum-dum-** – DOUBTS!”

At first, I couldn’t believe my ears, but then quickly I could not ignore the clarity of the message. I suddenly knew, that I had many doubts within myself that I still had to deal with — and that they were “in the way” of something.  Shortly thereafter, I heard a voice from far off in the woods, as if the sun was rising on the horizon. At first, I looked for it, but there was no one there. Listening closely, it was the most pure and beautiful sound I had ever heard. The more I focused on it, the better I could hear it, as if it was coming closer. I suddenly put it all together … if I could remove self-doubt, a great gift would be given – the gift of voice. 
I quickly became committed to unraveling self-doubt and self-deprecating habits because it was the wall keeping me from this gift waiting to come in.  It was painful, facing them, but the more I did it, the less fear I had. My commitment to receiving the gift was more important. I obtained a Bachelors in Expressive Arts Therapy (Indiana University) through an Independent Major Program, as they did not represent the field yet at that time (1998).  Years later, I studied with Metropolitan Opera singer, Brenda Boozer. 
As my voice teacher would say “singing is a bridge between heaven and earth”.  The voice is a passageway for holding heavenly space for myself and others. We must clear these passages in order to elevate ourselves and others.
I gave birth to my son in 2009, and tried to keep singing yet the stress of trying to hold up my commitment to singing seemed impractical for me.  I have included links to my music, below, and invite you to listen.

My music partner, Julian and our son

 

I did a TEDXSarasota performance and soon after fell into a depression. So, I went and got a full-time job to settle the threat to my psyche, finances and my family. I stopped trying to manage working full-time plus find ways to hold after-hours rehearsals. I took a hiatus from music altogether to raise my son, to recover financially and diminish my stress. Every day, I felt the calling of my voice, but was not able to answer. It was devastating, as if I was doing something wrong, by turning my back on my one true calling. I felt support from my parents to keep a steady job, without the stress of the financial burden.

 

Performing at TEDXSarasota

 

Three years later, I withstood office work for as long as I could and quit my job. Now, with more financial stability, and my son older and in school, (only one week ago), I decided to stop prioritizing my financial goals over my gifts, to refocus on singing and teaching my Authentic Voice workshops!
 
And here I am today, in this moment, facing the music. I have started practicing again, even taking lessons to touch base with classical voice foundations, to find myself and my voice again. I am registered for Yoyo Ma’s Silk Road “Global Musician’s Workshop” next month, to explore and perform with other musicians. I am working toward opening the creative path again and to hearing the divine flow of music again.  I know it is my path, though even still, I find it scary to face the music. Will I succeed? Will I support myself? Will I let my family down? Fear will always be there, but the ultimate act of courage is to sing into the face of fear, and  keep going.

 

Teaching an Authentic Voice Workshop

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you Brenda for this wonderful platform, and your amazing angelic support! Please stay tuned for more to come.

 

Helen Nock, Natural Materials Sculptor & Glass Mosaic Artist, Tells Her Story

 

I often refer to myself as a mud pie kinda gal. Even though my formal training is in fine art, it didn’t take me long to discover an abiding love for materials and processes. I still love to paint in between the main studio practice – one informs the other, and I just love to experiment, full stop. As for mud pies, it’s not far off the mark because my story begins on a farm in the Yorkshire dales.

 

Seed

 

Mum and Dad finished their service in the RAF, got wed and settled down near Dad’s roots living in a rented old wooden bungalow. We were there for the first six years of my life wild and isolated. The isolated part could sometimes be a bit of a bummer but the rest was wonderful. Dad was hardly ever home and mum worked all the hours she was able. I spent many content days playing with chickens, pigs, and Pim, our Border Collie, and Billie the budgie. And, oh yes, putting  worms to bed between dock leaf blankets.

 

Hughes Birdbath

 

Pim was not keen on having her fur secretly trimmed in the outhouse (yes, the Dunny – we are going back over 50 years) nor attending make believe dinners made from dirt, but she did her best. The chickens, likewise, did not appreciate rides in my wood train, though I wore my scratches with pride. My creative practical Mum spent endless hours making a charming home and garden, and just about everything we needed out of very little.
Memorial and Me
That life of dirt and make-do-and-mend, surrounded by mysterious nature and dilapidation, and unspoken wonderings shows through in my work today. Fast forward to my late twenties without any formal qualifications and huge gaps in my education (Mum and Dad separated and life became somewhat nomadic for a single female parent trying to make ends meet in the late 50s and early 60s).
I joined a recreational pottery class. The inspirational tutor and artist saw my talent and nurtured it. From there I progressed to gathering my own studio resources to furnish a part-time clay crafting business alongside the day job which, at that time, turned into 20 years as a postie. By my mid-30s I had married, gained a mortgage and three cats, and still on the post I got a yearning for more than modeling clay and thought I might like to run workshops. Lack of accreditation was a significant barrier to my credibility so I joined a part-time A level art course where I discovered I could paint, and understand (just about all) academia. This was heady stuff, and I got seriously hooked on learning and achieving.
Horse to Water Birdbath
My path continued from further to higher education, including a basic teaching and training course. I am so grateful for those days full of opportunities for unqualified adults to access education. My educational run concluded in my early forties with a BA in Fine Art. It was hard with many hurdles along the way, but I was on an unstoppable trajectory.
Working early shifts on the post allowed me to learn during the rest of the day but many times I would doze in lectures and barely scraped through assignments. I did not need to do it, I wanted to and I suppose this is a good juncture at which to express my heartfelt thanks, as well as some twinges of guilt, to my family and friends for losing the old Helen due to my determination to succeed.
Secret Cargo Wall
Many a mature student will tell you, the changes brought about by a higher education, in contrast to barely any, comes as a shock to those around them with inevitable periods of alienation for both sides. After graduating I was offered an unexpected post teaching and lecturing art to difficult-to-engage young adults. I did this for years and can tell you that teaching art everyday to unruly teenagers who are excluded from mainstream schooling makes one swat up on different genres and techniques at an unprecedented rate to be readily equipped to jump anywhere through Plans A to Z. It was an unexpected and revelatory part of my journey but I got here and, in the end became far, far richer for it and the kids.
At fifty I packed in teaching, wanting to establish my own practice while I still had the energy to climb a new set of rungs. I already rented my studio based in our old town quarry: it’s five acres of wildlife and historical industrial sites hosts an art and craft community and was highly influential in my new direction as well as in total harmony with my earthy, mud pie spirit.
First Show at Study Gallery
Without any business plan I was sort of free-floating and a bit dazed after the all-consuming teaching pressure was lifted. It so happened that our resident blacksmith was inundated with work and swooped in to offer me part-time employment to help ease his workload in return for some training and a small wage whilst I found myself. This became another fantastic experience. I became addicted to the furnace and I was good. Alas, I was too old to become a proper blacksmith but I got some serious skills under my belt and, again, did not look back.
During my creative time at the forge ideas for combinations of metal designs and interesting surfaces started to hatch. Mosaic was the obvious choice and the furniture and sculpture naturally followed as a neat and sustainable collaboration alongside our individual practices.
Solstice
Meanwhile, I developed my first small body of studio work for the garden and was discovered by curators of a gallery boutique in Bournemouth. They invited me submit at their designer-maker show at the Poole Gallery in Dorset. It was at this prestigious venue – my coming out party – I received valuable feedback that spurred me on and, not least, including some voting with pockets. I continued to experiment with the mosaic method, combining a range of materials and techniques. Indeed, my first table surfaces were made from material found in the quarry and along our coastline, and some of my studio ceramics.
Later, I explored the inclusion of stained glass, creating a variety of understated earthy Bling features. The light through and around glass holds an abiding fascination for me and I try to incorporate an element of it wherever the light might play to advantage. I love subtle inclusions and surprise juxtapositions.
Today, I continue to show my work through a small selection of good venues and the rest of my work comes from private commissions. I am grateful for this gift and to all those unexpected teachers, challenges and opportunities along the way, and to be fortunate to earn my living from what I love to do.
Tangerine Window
The weather, and weight and industrial quality of it all gets a bit tough sometimes …but I can always return to painting.
Fuzz Trying to Sleep
That’s the nuts and bolts of my journey. My work speaks for the arty details I have not included.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brenda Smoak for including me in Artists Tell Their Stories. It certainly has been an interesting, even stretching exercise, in attempting to articulate a potted tale about my journey.

Hiep Cao Nguyen, Creator of Circle Painting, Tells His Story

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1967, I began my life journey in Saigon. My mom, uncle and aunt were musicians and teachers, so I grew up in a home filled with music. After school, my siblings and I would sit around playing music, telling stories, and drawing comics, sometimes underneath the dark staircase which doubled as a bomb shelter. I was mesmerized by Uncle Kien’s vivid tales of a curious boy who traveled far and wide. Kien drew pictures to illustrate the boy’s adventures: crossing plains, navigating rice paddies, climbing mountains, fighting beasts, and eventually becoming a warrior and peacemaker. I dreamed of travelling the world like this boy, armed with my brushes and paint.
And then, when I was seven, the war ended. The communist regime tore my family apart and my dad spent three years in the “education camp.” After being released from the prison, he escaped Vietnam by boat, and eventually made it to the U.S. as a refugee in 1978. My twin brother, Home, followed soon thereafter. 
Growing up amid the pain of separation and abandonment, my coping mechanism was to escape into drawing with my worn pencils and scratch papers.
 
 
I missed my uncle’s artistic imagination immensely so I took over his role, continuing to draw and tell stories to my younger siblings. During junior high school, I traded sketches of characters from legends and kung fu movies in exchange for ice cream and food from classmates.
As time passed, my childhood hobby became a serious profession. Defying parental pressure to enter a financially stable career like medicine or engineering, I applied to the art university after finishing high school. Even though I scored the highest on the entrance exam, my admission was denied because of my dad’s past political affiliation. Disillusioned and disappointed with the system, I sought another way to educate myself. 
Over the next three years, I traveled Vietnam on foot, inventively living out Uncle Kien’s stories. From village to village, I stayed at the homes of friends and strangers alike. A nomad, I painted portraits and landscapes for my benefactors in exchange for their food and kindness.  I learned to be ready for any change, and all the while advanced my artistic craft through experimentation and determination.
My family was separated for eleven years.  After what seemed like an impossible journey at the time, we were finally reunited when the rest of my family and I immigrated to the U.S. in 1991.
I spent the next several years in Los Angeles trying to assimilate in to the U.S., learning English, and working odd jobs. I felt depressed, isolated, and invisible to the point of suicide. Working seven days a week, money was good, but my life was sad. Drawing every night – at least a few sketches on a pad no matter how tired I was – was the only thing keeping me afloat. But even then, what good was money or art without a community to share it with?
 
 
 
 
Self-portrait.  Oil on Canvas.  30”x 40”
I recognized similar despair and the need for connection in my fellow refugees. This drove my brother, Home, and I to start the first Vietnamese American theater company. Club O’Noodles received awards and acclaim  for its performance art focused on helping refugees who had been traumatized by war and its aftermath. I worked as a lighting director, stage designer, and performer. The work generated healing for others as well as ourselves, but it did not generate enough income to pay the bills, and the troupe dissolved after a few years.
In 1999, I returned to Vietnam in search of the root of my childhood dreams: drawing and painting. On my journey home, I encountered a spiritual practice which transformed the way I see the world and the way I create today.  
Armed with this confidence that art would be my guide, I unrolled a ten-meter canvas and struggled with the overwhelming sensation that the canvas was as blank as I was. What should I paint? How would I begin? Finally, after many agonizing days staring at this canvas, I began drawing the most basic shapes on this blank slate – circles. 
For three months, eight hours a day, six days a week, I religiously painted this infinite shape in a peaceful, repetitious, and meditative manner. I felt unstoppable. I became focused and saw circles everywhere I looked. One day I invited the neighborhood children to come see my art studio. I encouraged them to paint their own circles along the same ten-meter canvas on which I worked. More and more children came by my studio in the following days and did the same thing. We talked about how this motion exists in everyday life – through the movements of our bodies when we dance, through the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, and through the cycles of water. They too began to see circles everywhere they looked. This was my AHA moment.
 
 
I had discovered not only a new way of making art, but a new way to build the community I always yearned for … a community of playfulness, creativity, compassion, and teamwork. I felt connected. I felt loved. I felt alive. Circle Painting was born. Having also discovered my love of teaching art, I returned to school at CSU Long Beach and received my MA in Art Education.
 
 
 
Since 2007, with the blessing and unceasing love and support from my wife, Tammy, my family and friends, I’ve devoted all of my time and energy to expanding and refining the Circle Painting process. Our Circle Painting work has transformed hundreds of empty walls and canvases and stretched the artistic muscles of tens of thousands of people from all backgrounds and cultures to produce an artistic unity around the world in countries as widespread as Singapore, Vietnam, China, Australia, Denmark, Israel, and many, many states in the USA!  
 
The first major break for Circle Painting was when I was invited work with the Southeast Asian Service Leadership Network (SEALNET), and the ASEAN Secretariat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, to highlight the community service efforts of ASEAN youth at ASEAN’s 40th anniversary. SEALNET had community service projects in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Cambodia where I conducted Circle Painting workshops in each of those countries. 
 
In the end, five enormous Circe Paintings were created, each painted by people from all walks of life across ASEAN and the world ‐ from kids on the street to university students. These five paintings were displayed during the celebration ceremonies at Raffles City, Singapore, and PM Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and other ASEAN ambassadors added their own artistic expressions to the paintings. The artistic expression became a literal as well as metaphorical representation of community and collaboration among nations.
 
 
 
 
Most recently, I spent a month in Hong Kong and Macau leading four back-to-back training workshops for teachers and social workers, combining painting and mindfulness practices for underserved communities. I am honored to partner with the Center For Community Cultural Development (CCCD) and POLA (a Japan cosmetic firm) to organize the first Circle Painting Arts Festival at Hong Kong Polytechnic University where hundreds of artists, students and the public were involved in three days of interactive and participatory art making. It’s another dream come true!
 
One of my most memorable and profound experiences working with children was at the Cancer Hospital in Vietnam. This mural project vividly transformed the pediatric unit of the hospital through the creativity and hard work of approximately two hundred patients, staff, and volunteers. I learned the story of a boy who calls himself “SuperEGGman.” He was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. He had lost his eyesight. When he heard that there was painting going on outside his room, he asked to participate. At first, the nurse didn’t let him, thinking that he wouldn’t be able to. When I heard about this from a volunteer, I insisted we wheel SuperEGGman into the room. As soon as the paint touched his fingers, he was like a fish in water again, painting, laughing, and happy. When asked why, he said he didn’t want to be taken away from the painting, he said it was the happiest day of his life. A couple of days later, he passed away. I learned that art might not cure cancer, but it can surely offer a dose of joy and happiness for the patients. 
 
 
29534_392369364597_2458579_n.jpg
 
 
29534_392369379597_6543559_n.jpg
This year, I had several opportunities to travel to Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, and Vietnam to lead numerous local and international community programs that brought so much joys and creativity to myself and thousands of lives.
Installation of paper plates created by students at Taipei American School
In collaboration with United Nations WOMEN, CCIHP, CSAGA, and the Youth Union, I spearheaded the “Strong Hands to End Violence Against Women and Girls” event that involved over two hundred families and five hundred local college students to join hands and hearts to spread the powerful message of love, equality, and non-violence toward women and girls. Subsequently, the artworks were showcased at the Women’s Museum in Hanoi, Vietnam.
 
Straw Hats Installation at Women Museum, Hanoi
I am also fortunate to have an opportunity to teach many art engagement programs for diverse senior communities such as “Treasures Project” at the Bowers Museum; “The Art for The Visual Impaired ” at Braille Institute Regional Center, Orange County and Singapore; “Culture Heritage Month for Vietnamese American Adoptees” at Catalyst Foundation, “My Active and Healthy Life Mural” and at School for the Hearing Impaired. We were also able to create numerous murals in several schools and organizations.
 
 
Recently, I formulated another collaborative drawing project called S.T.E.A.M. Drawing. The initial idea of this project was generated from my experience of drawings from a childhood game called “Please Draw Me”. I encourage participants to use symbols, motifs, and images from subjects such as science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) to activate our observational skills, develop their drawing skills, expand our visual vocabulary, encourage collaboration, and create artwork that empowers all. 
S.T.E.A.M. Drawing from Mission Viejo Arts Alive Festival, Ink on canvas,  5’x7′The drawings are displayed at CSU Fullerton Campus
Circle Painting  has transformed my life and I invite you to sit down and draw a circle, maybe draw and paint several circles. Better yet, watch my videos below and come join me at a Circle Painting event!. Together we can paint away our stress, isolation, depression and creative obstacles. Together, we can connect, create, and celebrate and share my mantra, “Art for All, and All for Art!”
 
 

Belgin Bozsahin, Clay Sculptor, Tells Her Story

 

I am an artist who enjoys using clay in a self-expressive way in the form of reliefs, sculptures and installations. My creative journey started with painting in oil colours at a very young age. With a fine art background from my birth city, Istanbul, Turkey, I spent many years working on figurative paintings, especially focusing on the female form.
  
 
Some years ago I came to a decision to turn from painting to a more tactile three-dimensional expression. Painting did not satisfy my need to convey a passion to capture and satisfy some deep inner experience.

 

 

My materials changed from paint to paper, to yarn and fabric later on, and then to much harder materials like marble and mosaic. My work became more textured and this movement between different dimensions has become a natural progression in my development. The enjoyment of ‘constructing’ and surface designing large scale works became a catalyst which inspired me to go back to college to do a ceramic degree at Camberwell College of Arts in London, England and The Academy of Arts in Bergen, Norway.
 
I have found clay to be the most versatile and expressive material to work with and I have now developed a way to construct my forms in porcelain clay, focusing on the continuous theme around ‘contrasting attributes of internal and external spaces’ in which we, as human “beings”, occupy. 

 

 

Existence, the Self and Inner Journey, are the wondrous themes that strongly resonate with me and I find endless inspiration to create my work from them. I find the female body to be the most powerful and expressive form to work with. I try to make work, which celebrates life. 
 
Having been born and brought up in Istanbul, and then having lived in London for the last three decades, I am aware that this multi-cultural background has had an impact on my cultural identity. My work makes a statement “what is common to all human beings is our relationship to what is innately within us” and I ask the question “what are the layers through which we evolve.  It is a universal theme with cultural influences in design and colour. I hope these influences are seen in the way that I have expressed these themes through my work. 
 
I work with the notion of personal evolution and changes that relate to all, women and men alike. I later recognised that the answer is in the material I use – the female form in porcelain, both the highest domestic “china” material and finest art material, my own human shape and contextual experience.  

 

Sometimes the inner journey is very challenging as you would expect, but when I look at my work over the years, I see it has reflected a joy and beauty that I have found in my own personal quietest moments. 

 

I use the forms, the spaces, the glazes, the crack or smooth surfaces to convey with as much elegance and simplicity that I can, the reflection of my life. In one of my works, the crusted and soft surfaces carry the small hand in that tiny opening upon our chest, or gold that become visible through the cracks symbolises the layers we evolve through – our feelings and experiences and what lies beyond the surface.
 

 

Alongside the figurative work I immensely enjoy creating installations and abstract work. I especially enjoy creating installation work where the public is invited to be a physical part of it and experience what is offered in a visual sound and touch experience.

 

An example of my abstract work in the form of wall pieces came about from a need to work intuitively. After working on figurative work for some time it become clear to me that when I have something personal to express it takes the form of figurative work, yet I didn’t always have something I wanted to say through my work but still had the need to create. I needed to step back and allow myself to work intuitively to express what I feel without form. 
I always liked collages especially with found materials. The reason for that become clearer when I was asked to discard a small box of hand-formed porcelain pieces and found I could not, I embedded them in a slab and found a medium to perfect an expression of my heritage, aesthetic and irrepressible joie de vivre.
 
I grew up with the memory of my grandmother’s stories about how life was challenging after the war and the poverty that most people experienced.  It was clear that those challenging times did not stop her making exquisite rugs and bed covers using leftover fabrics. Some of these tiny pieces of fabrics came from zips and trimmings.  She cared for scarce materials. I see now that I was influenced by those values – to create rather than throw away which, was quite the opposite to consumerism. 
 
As a dedicated jazz music listener I feel these ‘pieces’ are improvisational works like the music itself.  At a quick glance my oeuvres may seem completely different from each other yet for me they “inform” each other and I see the binding thread between them. I see the theme of celebration through experience and culture – of being a human being and of being alive.
 
In recent years I started to make a series of quirky object d’arts that are inspired from my art projects. I soon realised that making “products” is a completely different ball game. It has its own challenges yet there is fun to be had. To See my “objects” being used in daily life is very satisfying. This branching out gave me the impetus to open a shop on Etsy. 
 
I continually make and show my work. My desire is to do an artist residency as well as work on collaborative projects with other artists, both in the UK and abroad.
 
I have exhibited my work in Istanbul, London, Ireland, Norway and on the QE2 ocean liner.  Many of my works are in private collections in Turkey, UK, Ireland, Portugal, Oman, China, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. 
 
I feel I am a success story in my life, not because I am educated, or Turkish or have lived half of my life in England, or believe or not believe in this creation through a particular belief system but because “I am”. First I am a human being and then a woman and then an artist. And I have a voice and I have the power within me to use my voice to say something meaningful in my life, something that matters, that is beautiful, that is powerful.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I wish you all a wonderfully successful creative life.
 
This is Week 7 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Belgin’s story today.
 
Belgin will be showing her work March 22 – 25 at MadeLondon Canary Wharf. If you would like an invite, please sign up via her news page at her website or drop her an email.
 

 

Aklilu Temesgen, Painter, Tells His Story

 

 

 

What drives me to the art world is my childhood desire to create something out of found objects — collecting small things that I found in my surroundings and using them to create something that could help me play with it. My work today is a continuation of the creative seeds planted in my childhood.
I grew up in a town called Dessie in Ethiopia. My work tells my own story, my ideas, my dreams and wishes and I endeavor to show stories of my Ethiopian community as well. Art is not limited to copying nature or a depiction of the story or social events. To me, art is a place where ideas flow without the limitations of time and space, where the flow of ideas is a core element of creativity.
 
 
 
 
As a visual artist, I follow what comes to my mind and I let my ideas freely flow until it blossoms. What I create is the result of my past story and my future imagination.
 
 
 
In our Ethiopian society and in my own family they did now want me to become an artist. They wanted me instead to focus my studies on becoming an engineer or another similar field of work. However, I knew deep down I was meant to be an artist and I kept pushing myself in that direction.
When I was very young I joined my elementary school art club and found that I was started fascinated by the process of creating a piece of art. I later joined the art club founded by the Ministry of Culture called ‘Pallet Amateur Artists Club’. The artist, Syum Ayalew, was my drawing teacher who helped us prepare ourselves to take the entrance exams to join the Fine Art School in Addis Ababa. Later, at Addis Ababa University, I studied art and life as well, since living in a dormitory was very different from family life.
 
 
 
 
When I graduated from the University in 2004 with distinction, several friends and I got together and opened local art studios and hosted art shows in Addis Ababa, which turned out to be quite successful. I became a founding member of the “Netsa Art Village'” which is a place to practice and create art freely. I helped organize local and international workshops and other artistic events for them. After a few years, I left Ethiopia and moved to Poland to work on my Master’s Degree in African Studies and Cultural Media.
 
 
I have participated in group and solo art shows in many countries: Kenya, Sudan, Zambia,  Djibouti, Poland, France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, and the USA.
 
Since I came to the United States, I have opened my studio in  Silver Spring, Maryland where I continue creating new work and teaching art to children. I have found that I particularly enjoy working with children who are living with disabilities.

Lori Kiplinger Pandy, Sculptor, Tells Her Story


I didn’t take my first art class until my last semester in high school. My teacher saw some real promise in my work and introduced me to the world of art possibilities. More than just paintings, art was also design, magazines, books, film, cards, shopping bags and more.

After that class I changed my plans from being an English teacher to becoming an artist and won a small scholarship to Ringling College of Art and Design where I majored in Illustration.



My art career has been quite varied and I spent 30 years as an Art Director, gallery artist, advertising artist and book designer/illustrator. My husband, seeing how burned out I was struggling with my perfectionism and constant publishing deadlines, suggested I try something different. So I took a portrait-sculpting workshop and discovered my love of sculpting. When I picked up clay I found it was love at first squish.

After years of trying to paint things to look round, with volume and form, I simply moved the clay under my fingers and it WAS round, with volume and form. I seemed to instinctively understand the scale, proportions, balance and musculature of my subjects but in reality my 30 years of drawing and painting were being manifested in a new medium.



While taking a figure sculpture workshop at Brookgreen Gardens, I shipped my nearly finished sculpture back to my studio. The armature came apart in transit and the ruined clay sculpture rolled around in the box – becoming cubism instead of realism. Had this been one my paintings, I would have been devastated over the lost work and in dread at recreating it. Never before had I realized how much work and stress went into each painting and how I the finished works always fell short of my expectations.




Yet my reaction to the shipping disaster was simply disappointment that I had wasted good money in shipping. Even more curious was the lack of a knot in my stomach at the lost hours of work or the worry about even trying to replace it. Instead was the quiet knowledge and confidence that I could simply sculpt this piece again as good, or probably even better, than before. And what’s more – I was happy to do so.




That is when I realized that I now valued the processof sculpting – finding the forms, balance, proportion and giving the work meaning and a story more than the finished work itself. It was liberating to be free from worry of the final product and more focused on the act and meaning of creating.




Armed with this revelation I re-sculpted the piece from memory and enjoyed the process even more the second time and “Waiting on the #9” was eventually cast in bronze.

It has been a few years since my switch from paints to clay and I have been learning about armatures, different clays and the collaborative nature of casting works in bronze. While the bronze process is long, laborious and expensive, the joy of expressing myself in expressive swirls of fingerprints and tool marks in clay makes it all worth it. But realizing that after 30 years I have finally found my medium and my voice is, quite simply, priceless.





This is Week 18 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Lori’s story today! To see more of Lori’s work or connect with her, please visit the following links:

Websites:
www.KiplingerPandy.com
www.LoriKiplingerPandy.com
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/kiplingerpandysculpture
Pinterest:
https://www.pinterest.com/kiplingerpandy/lori-kiplinger-pandy-sculpture/
LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorikiplingerpandy
Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/kiplingerpandy/

Angela White, Painter, Tells Her Story

 

I’ve known my whole life that I am an artist. Maybe living in both France and Italy when I was a child influenced my love of art. I do remember a teacher asking me when I was about 9 or 10 years old, what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered her questions with the response “an artist”.
While I admire artists like Louise Bourgeoise, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin and Anselm Kiefer, my inspiration is always from my own life experiences.
I have been in my studio at Artists & Makers Studios in Rockville, Maryland, for five years. I chose to join the studio when they first opened to experience being part of a large artist community and be near my home. Previously, I maintained a studio in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, for 13 years.
Morning Light, Oil on Canvas, 16”x20”
As a painter, physical, spiritual and emotional memories inspire the visual depth and density of my work. Through the use of art materials, these journeys, turning points, and the inevitable return to new beginnings are recorded. Abstracts and seascapes compose the majority of my compositions.
Coming to Light, Encaustic on Wood, 10”x10”
By superimposing layers of media, the varied themes and processes of my work are exposed. Materials for each image are selected based on what best fit that particular series. Natural and sensual materials such as oils and encaustic paint allow the blending of edges to create visual depth. Mixed media allows for another kind of mysterious and contemplative work. Different kinds of mark making are incorporated including specific symbols such as an alphabet that I created. Overlays of acrylic and gold leaf often enhance these works as well.
I usually have an idea of what I want to accomplish in terms of imagery so when I arrive at my studio, I can begin working. As I begin laying out the materials and colors, I am centering myself and becoming focused to work.
Intention, Acrylic on Gold Leaf, 18”x24”
My seascapes are not literal interpretations; rather, they articulate the quiet mystery and power of the natural world. By showing constant movement, natural rhythm, and a sense of place, these works communicate awareness. Such awareness of the intricacies of nature emphasize that we are all a part of everything. There is no real separation between the air, earth, water and humanity.  When viewing paintings of these seemingly lonely places that are actually brimming with life, the objective is to transport the viewer to a feeling of connectedness.
The Washington area has been my home for most of my adult life.  I have many friends in the creative community, great studio relationships, and a wonderful gallery relationship with Wohlfarth Gallery in North East, Washington, DC.

 

Each series of my artwork has it’s own most significant paintings. My new solo show at Wohlfarth Gallery, opening April 14th, of ‘Marshes, Seas and Mountains’, has been inspired by my visits to the East Coast to visit my mother and the West Coast to visit my son. This exhibit is composed of several very personally meaningful works that were created in response to my experience of these journeys. Calm Before the Storm, Assateague Island Marsh and In Between Space are some of the most significant works in this series for this show.

 

In Between Space, Encaustic on Wood, 6”x6”

 

Le Point Sensible stands out as the most significant of my body print series, Transition stands out as the most significant of my abstract encaustic series and Sigil Magic is, so far, the most significant of my ongoing gold leaf abstract series.

 

Le Point Sensible, Body Print

 

 

Sigil Magic, Acrylic on Gold Leaf, 18”x36″

 

Washington, DC is a diverse and interesting area for an artist to live. There are many opportunities and if one choses their priorities carefully, they can cultivate a balanced, creative, and meaningful life.
 

Kim Reyes, Makeup, SFX & Body Paint Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 

 

 

Being a Navy brat, I moved to a different city and/or country every three years and being an extremely shy child, I found comfort in drawing, painting and dressing up my menagerie of pets in fashionable costumes. My mother was an artist and it also came naturally to me. I didn’t remember this but she recently gave me old drawings I did when I was four years old and they were all female figures with long black eyelashes and ruby lips!
I remember in my teens making up my poor 11-year-old sister and photographing her in ridiculously overdone makeup and my version of couture outfits – it was the 80’s!!  It wasn’t until my 2nd or 3rd career that I discovered I could make a living doing those lashes and lips.
After earning a degree in Marketing and Fashion Design, working in the ski fashion industry in Aspen, Colorado, then the New York fashion scene for several years I felt empty, hollow and unfulfilled in my career choice. I made my way back to Virginia where I got a makeup counter job and fell in love with making women look and feel pretty.
The Georgetowner Magazine Cover
I loved being able to transform women into a more flattering vision of themselves through makeup but I hated the retail grind and sales goals. Two years later I took a job with a wonderful jewelry designer for 9 years and was able to use my makeup skills for all her media, while meeting and working with photographers. During that time, I was able to save money to build my makeup kit.
In 2001 I set out on my own, all the while taking classes and workshops to hone my makeup skills. I spent countless hours testing (working for free with photographers and models) to get good images for my portfolio. I also learned and loved body painting and special effects makeup, which has taken me to many interesting jobs and situations.
Personal Project (Georgia O’Keefe inspired) Backdrop, Costuming, Body Paint 
I have body painted models for fashion shows, art openings and private parties, made up role players with bloody injuries for first responders and mass casualty exercises around the country and created war injuries on role players in the middle of the desert for the US Army’s pre-deployment training.

 

Injury Makeup

 

My client list includes celebrities, politicians, astronauts, Supreme Court Justices and everyone in-between.  I work in television, video, print, live events, and charities like The Look Good Feel Better (makeup lessons for cancer patients) and Flashes of Hope (photo-shoots for terminally ill children and their families). Currently, I’m working a few times a month creating wounds and medical conditions for a production company that produces nursing training videos and textbooks.
Newsweek – Alan Greenspan
I just love what I do and the fact that every day is a brand new experience: new locations, new people, new challenges, and working for myself!

 

Current Mattress Warehouse Ad
Aldrin Michele Richard, Chef
My job can be challenging and surprising. I was booked to do grooming for a famous chef with a celebrity photographer and what I ended up having to do for the shots was to break a raw egg over the chef’s head, mush it into his beard and then clean it all off after the shot.

 

IDEM Cover

 

My job can also be very glamorous. I had a magazine shoot about octogenarian lawyers and had to very tactfully remove nose, ear and chin hair from both the men and the women. I’ve had more than a handful of times when I’ve been down on all fours with bleach scrubbing up fake bloodstains from floors, furniture, and bridges.
One shoot, at a new stadium under construction, had me trudging through sand, rusty nails and 4 inches of mud in the summer heat. I just go with the flow and do what needs to be done and at the end of the day, it’s all about having a good attitude, sense of humor, much caffeine and making someone feel special while in my chair.
I do believe if you follow your passion you will be happy and successful.
Personal Project (Georgia O’Keefe inspired) Backdrop, Costuming 

Robin Antar, Stone Sculptor, Tells Her Story

 

It’s been a long journey. Born in New Jersey, I moved with my family to Brooklyn, New York as a teen and learned to carve stone as a means of survival. The social scene at Lincoln High School was brutal; I was an outsider. Art was my way in — my emotional lifeline — my spiritual way out.
In 1981 I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, and also began “paying my dues” in sweat and stone dust. I became an elected member of the Allied Artists of America and the National Association of Women Artists, both in New York City, NY.
Boxing Gloves, Carrara Marble, 7”h X 16”w X 12”d 
Best known today is my work in stone, which I create primarily in my Brooklyn-based studio and gallery. My pieces are also found in seven galleries around the world: POP International Galleries in New York City, NY, where I was the first female ever invited to exhibit; Lumin Art Gallery, Dallas, TX; Gina M. Woodruff Gallery, in Long Beach, CA; Rarity Gallery, Mykonos Greece; ABC Stone, Brooklyn, NY; International Stone, Brooklyn, NY; and Bradbury Art and Antiques, Vail CO.
In my ‘Realism in Stone’ series I focus on realistic replications of icons of American pop culture, creating permanent records of “best loved” items in today’s society that may not exist tomorrow. That series was preceded by years spent in abstract sculpting and painting the limits and freedom of vision I encountered after suddenly discovering I was blind in one eye, and had been since my birth.
Hamburger and Fries, hamburger only 11”h X 13”w X 13”d, base 2”h X 26”w X 22”d
While working in abstracts and during the Realism in Stone series I began a functional art line as well, one that naturally flowed together with the culture of my Jewish heritage.
Somehow what started as an abstract ended as a wine knot, a nesting place for the beverage blessed each Sabbath by Jews around the world.  Chips of alabaster and other stones were transformed into ritual salt cellars, carrying the condiment into which generations of my family has dipped portions of braided bread before distributing it to diners at the Sabbath table.  Larger, more irregular chunks became candy bowls in which to cradle the sweets traditionally gifted between Jews on the holiday of Purim.
But Jewish art was not new to me: five deeply traditional silver Torah scroll covers bear my signature, including one whose model was first carved in stone discovered in the New York City yard of a newly-constructed Roman Catholic cathedral. Each of those commissions is now blessed with the prayers of a Jewish congregation.
Along with those sculptures and throughout my life I have sought infuse whichever media I use – be it charcoal on paper, oil paint on canvas or a diamond blade on stone – with all the forces at play. Any joy, heartache or rage simply becomes more fuel to the fire.
A number of museums have exhibited my work, including The Alternative Museum, New York City, NY; City Museum in S. Louis, MO; Provincetown Art Museum, Provincetown, MA; and others. My work has been included by Sotheby’s in a Channel 13 Auction in New York, NY; shown by Fine Art Management Enterprises in Miami, FL; exhibited at the Waldorf Astoria by Elliot Stevens, New York, NY; and as a featured artist at the ARTV Awards, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV, among numerous other exhibitions. I have participated in shows in New York, NY; Dallas, TX; Philadelphia, PA; and online.
My work has held the interest of the media as well. I have been interviewed by FOX 5 NY, WNBC TV, HGTV, CBS New York, FOX 5 TV Las Vegas, Downtown Magazine, The Huffington Post, Sculpture Pacific Magazine, Wine Access: Canada’s Wine Magazine, to name just a few.
Cowboy Hat, Carved Limestone, 7″h X 14″w X16″d
In an email dated April 18, 2012, my work received the exceptional honor of being praised by Marla Prather, Curator of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who called it “quite remarkable” and noted that it “obviously relates to Andy Warhol.”
Although I have been honored nearly every year since 2004, I especially treasure the Newhouse Foundation Grant, the Gold Medal of Honor from the Allied Artists of America, and the Gretchen Richardson Award for Carved Sculpture from the National Association of Women Artists.
Star of David, Limestone & Oak,12″h X 10″w X 2″d
I have used my art as a healing tool for myself, but nothing can compare to the loss of a child. For that, I healed myself by carving out a 1,500-pound block of stone which now stands in one of the few places that helped him as a child:  Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks NY. To me that was the most personal and important work that I have created to date.  Below is my statement about that piece.

 

David’s Knot in Flames:
David’s Knot in Flames, Turkish marble, 40”h X 26’w X 15”d
On the grounds of the Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks NY
This sculpture was created as a tribute to my son David Antar, who passed away October 28, 2013. It was carved from a 1,500 pound block of Greek marble at the summer 2014 session of Marble/Marble-26. This in itself is strange, because my David passed away at the age of 26 as well.

 

The stone, which now weighs 500 pounds, has purple veins running through it – also a strange thing, because when David was young and having a very hard time with life, his ‘secret code’ to me when he needed help was to whisper “purple!” That was also his favorite color when he was seven or eight years old. I had forgotten all of it when I purchased the stone – but it all came back to me as I worked through the carving.
I carved a knot because David had a very hard life. The knot represents his pain; but the knot breaks open into a flame, which to me represents life – his soul rising to Heaven. This was an extremely hard thing for a mother to do. But for me, a sculptor, it was also a work of healing.

 

Hotdog, Limestone, Oils & Mixed Media, 12”h 39”w X 16”d

A side note from Robin – 🙂

My passion is to create virtual records of cultural and personal events that have impacted me greatly. My vision of replicating real-life events in stone allows me to transform emotions into lasting expressions of art for others to appreciate. I achieved my goal when the U.S. government wrote to tell me I cannot copyright a work of art because it too closely resembles the product that I chose to record in stone. The day I received that letter was one of the happiest days of my life.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Solomon Asfaw, Painter, Tells His Story

 

My paintings are reflections of the stories, thoughts and ideas I want to express about myself, my culture, and the human condition in general. I believe sharing these concepts will help connect people with their own feelings and with the humanness we all share and in some small way, help bring the world community closer with one another. I live in the Washington, DC area so I have chosen paintings to share that co-mingle my DC life with my birth country.
Addis Ababa II, acrylic on canvas

 

I was born in the middle of the Mercato, which is the local marketplace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The ambiance of Mercato has always been my inspiration. The hue of the dust and dirt littering the streets, the color of the rusty roofs and shanty houses, the actions of the beggars and drunkards, the shoe-shiners, and the street vendors, all hold a unique beauty for me, and to this day, those memories continue to influence my work.
Georgetown University in DC, acrylic on canvas
Church iconography also mesmerizes me. When I first saw them on the church walls, I was moved by their artistry. This experience stirred me to interpret Saint’s images on sheets of paper. Children in my neighborhood of Kolfe were attracted by these drawings, so I started developing those drawings into postcards. For Ethiopian New Year, the kids preferred my drawings over others, which created a need for mass production so they could buy them to give as special gifts.
The Great Blizzard in DC, acrylic on canvas
I later joined the Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design. While there, I learned to develop my sense of color and design and I began producing images with creative composition.
Daily News, acrylic on paper

 

Since 2001, when I graduated, I helped establish Saron Art Studio in Addis Ababa and I’ve continued to explore my perceptions of everyday life. I have exhibited my work throughout the United States, Africa, and Europe and I’m honored to have built a reputation as a talented artist in the art world of Ethiopia.
Thomas Circle in DC, acrylic on canvas
Blogger’s note: In Ethiopia, Solomon’s collections can be found in the Vatican Embassy in Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design, the Alliance Ethio-Francaise, the Arthur Rimbauld Museum in Harar, and the Alliance Francaise in Gjbouti and Sudan. In the United States, the National Language Museum in Maryland features his collections.
Addis Ababa I, acrylic on canvas

 

  
Harar, acrylic on canvas

Dan Waltz, Author, Artist & Illustrator, Tells His Story

I considered myself a retired artist, or at least a semi-retired one. I’ve had a pretty good career in the arts, lasting over thirty years. I say semi-retired, because due to time, I don’t paint very often anymore, but rest assured, when I really do retire, I will pick up the brush once again. 
 
 
 
 
I’ve sold a lot of paintings and prints over the years, and illustrated a few books. I even did a few book covers for others, as well as my own. When I’m painting, I specialize in realistic wildlife. I’ve worked in all mediums, oils, acrylic, pen, pencil, but prefer watercolor for the detail I can get from them.
 
 
About eight or so years ago, I laid down my paintbrush and picked up a pen and started writing again. I wrote as a teen back in the 70’s, then started drawing and painting, and well, 30+ years later I end up here. “Writing again.”
 
I really enjoy it. It’s like painting with words. It’s just another form of communication and another form of art; I guess I’m not really retired after all.
 
 
I write whatever kind of story that comes to mind. I really don’t want to be stuck in one genre.  I write horror, fantasy, drama, it doesn’t really matter. I would like to say I have something for everyone. If you like zombie fiction, I’ve got it, but I also have a bullying story that everyone should read. I have written a book on an adventurous garden gnome, and even one on a haunted corn maze, which I’m in the process of rewriting. I prefer to write novels over short stories, but I have started a collection of shorts as well.
My latest novel came out almost a year ago. I wrote the first draft in the 2013 NANOWRIMO and published it last year after about a year of polishing. It’s titled, ASH, Like a Tattoo. The book was never intended to be a bullying story, but that’s what it turned out to be, and I love it. I want to do more like it, which is why I recently purchased http://www.bullycidal.comin hopes to add to the story or create new ones along the way, and to help promote bully awareness. You may have already guessed that I was bullied as a child.
                      
Well, that’s in the works, but so are a lot of things. I tend to work on many stories all at once. In fact, I believe I have about 11 of them going as I write this blog. They’re all different genres and I work on them as the story comes to me.  I like to let them write themselves and I never force the issue. Sure, I have an idea in mind from the start, and most of the time I have an ending as well, but by the time I get there, the ending has usually changed. That’s just my style.  I’m just as much surprised at the end of the book, writing it, as you would be reading it. That’s what makes it fun.
 
 
My books are available on my website and on Amazon. To learn more about my art, my books and more about me, please visit my website at www.danwaltz.com and of course, I’m on all the social networks.
 

Walt Bartman, Painter and Teacher, Tells His Story

I identify myself as an artist / teacher. A path I chose forty years ago. It has been a long and fulfilling journey. I grew up “out of the furnace” in North Braddock, Pennsylvania. A steel town in its heyday near Pittsburgh. I can vividly remember the images of the mills at night. I can remember the energy of the rich colors from the steel furnaces reflected in the skies. It was captivating seeing flames reaching toward the heavens. Imagery that I have carried with me to this day. The mills inspired me to love color and follow a path in the visual arts.  My very first painting was of a group of muscular steel workers in their yellow helmets.

 
 
The Prophet, Oil,  24” x 28”
 
 
My journey has come a long way from those days in North Braddock. The reason I chose teaching as a career is because I had great inspiring teachers. Teaching is where I could think philosophically and futuristically. I could bring ideas that inspired me in to the classroom to share with my students. Fortunately, I did not have to follow any set curriculum.

 

Philosophically, my motto has been “I wouldn’t give my students any problem I would not do myself.”  I looked to inspire my students. There was a period where I would bring Kurt Schwitters, my pet rooster into the classroom to model. The students loved it. You can see their drawings on Kurt’s Facebook page, “Kurt Schwitters, Walt Whitman H.S. Alum and well-known model.”
Last Light – Port Clyde, Oil, 18” x 24″
The validation for my ideas came when I was featured on Charles Osgood’s CBS Sunday Morning. The segment was titled “Teaching Them to See.”
Twenty-two years ago, I founded the Yellow Barn Studio at Glen Echo Park. It was one of the big goals in my life. The Yellow Barn Studio today is full of inspiration and enthusiasm and is one of the three largest painting programs in the Washington D.C. / Baltimore area. 
What inspires me? I really enjoy composing an idea that is changing and has no preconceived idea. Finding the essence – building an idea and refining it. I only use a photo as a resource. Working from it is working from the past, and I have chosen to work in the present. I’m immersed in the moment and am gifted epiphanies from nature.
Trumpet Cloud, Oil, 16” x 20″ 
I remember once being caught out in the open as a storm came barreling across the valley. I realized I had taken my life in my hands. I remembered a Turner quote, “Tie yourself to a mast.” I completed the painting as lightning bolts rained down around me, the winds howled, and the sky turned green. Like a sailor, I had confidence to face nature.

Plastic Bottle, Oil, 24” x 28″

Since I work mostly outdoors, nature has given me a multitude of challenges. It is constantly changing – the temperature, the wind, the bugs, the heat and cold. I love it! My work records the situations I am in. My paintings are my stepping stones along a long creative path that seams endless. 
 
My work is represented by Marin-Price Galleries in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


Sand Dancers, Oil, 16” x 24”

 

 

Gila Rayberg, Mosaic Artist, Tells Her Story

So, what do playing trombone and making mosaics have in common? (sounds like the start of a bad joke!) Patience, practice, technique, tools, discipline, repetitive … repeat … repetitive motion!
For one, both are physically demanding. As a music student, I spent countless hours in a small room playing, practicing, playing, over and over whatever I was working on. Six, seven, sometimes 9 hours a day. The mosaic equivalent, cutting tile, shaping glass, splitting stone, again and again, achieving the cut you want, the perfect curve, the smoothest edge, it comes with practice. Practice is what makes it become second nature. Just like playing scales, the exercise and repetition prepares you for the hard work ahead. For making music, for making art, creating something that speaks for itself.

Seventh Position, (self-portrait) ceramic, glass, dinnerware & pottery shards, 16″x9″
Music school taught me to be critical. Not having that weight on my shoulders when creating art, I’ve finally found the freedom to improvise, better than I ever could with music. This is especially true with my most recent work, using dishes, pottery, and other discarded items.

For a time I lived in Southeast Asia, taking advantage of every opportunity to travel in the region. I taught music and English, while collecting indigenous musical instruments and textiles. It’s these travels that influenced my first mosaics.

Headed Home, Smalti, millefiori, stone & stained glass, 13″x8″
Talk about culture shock, I moved from Malaysia to New Orleans! It’s there that my long standing dream of mosaic-ing the world around me began. I gathered everything I needed, in secret, to make a table for my new boyfriend’s birthday. Well, needless to say, that effort sealed the deal, as we’re still together, more than 17 years later!
Driving around the piled-high with debris streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I spotted a small chair on the side of the road. My immediate thought, “Mosaic Chair!” After months of preparation, using a moisture barrier, fiberglass, and concrete mix, it was ready for mosaic. The upholstery designs came from patterns from my Malaysian and Indonesian batik collection. Midway through we moved to Florida.  Packing up an entire mosaic studio was no easy task! Almost a year later,  I  completed the Textile Throne. Everyone who see and sit on it,  comments on how comfortable it looks …  and it is!
Textile Throne, chair with mosaic & mirrors

As I was transitioning from full time musician to focusing on mosaics, I accepted an invitation from Julia Kay to join her Portrait Party (JKPP).  This international online group of artists portray (in any media) portraits of each other. Little did I know how much this group would become part of my daily life and influence my artistic direction.

Revolutionary #34 Arturo, Pen & Watercolor
At that point I had only done a few small portraits, and little to no drawing. My interactions with other artists grew quickly from a handful to hundreds from around the world. It’s been a consistent driving force and remains a primary reference source for my portraits. What began  online, has become an international community of artists, who have drawn together, have gallery shows, and most recently published a book, Portrait Revolution: Inspiration From Around The World For Creating Art In Multiple Mediums And Styles, in both the UK and US. It’s a humbling experience and great honor to be one of 15 Featured Artists in the book, among 200 artists from 55 countries.

Sidekick, glass, ceramic, dinnerware & pottery, 16″x20″
As a result, my largest ongoing series is Portraits of Contemporary Portrait Artists. Each portrait is a new challenge, which is one of the main things that keeps me doing them. I use photos and drawings as reference, and allow myself total freedom to improvise and make spontaneous changes as the materials demand.

Kimie, Smailti, Mexican pottery, vitreous glass & dinnerware, 10″x13″x3.5″
My first mosaic works were done exclusively with ceramic tile, but through the years, through workshops and experimentation, I’ve learning to incorporate stained glass, Smalti (Byzantine glass), stone, shell and most recently, dishes and crockery. All together, they enhanced my pallet and increased the ways I can create texture, which I so love.
As a practicing artist I spend hours in my studio, sometimes with music, but most often alone, in quiet solitude. I allow thoughts to come and go, as I search through stacks and boxes of materials, dishes given to me by friends, family, and neighbors. Thoughts about their histories, the people that handled them, as well as their designs, mingle with whatever work I have going on, finding connection in unexpected places.  I love the moment when a particular shard jumps out as an indispensable anchor, or hidden message within a portrait.

Time Out, hands thrown pottery, dinnerware, glass & shells, 16″x45″

For each and every piece I lay down, a series of decisions have to be made. Beyond finding

the appropriate material, I have to decide where and how to cut it, which direction to place

it, while taking into consideration how it fits together with all the pieces around it. It can

take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, or longer, to cut and place a single

piece. Patience and commitment. There are endless ways to make a likeness, so I rely

on my intuition to make choices, then I follow through to make them work … when they

don’t, I rip it out. Working primarily with cement adhesive, making changes after a piece

is set, takes a chisel and determination!

Spider Fingers, glass, ceramic & dinnerware, 12″x12″

 

This is Week 44 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Gila’s

Nancy Sausser, Ceramic Sculpture Artist, Tells Her Story

Glimpsing, ceramic, 16 x 12 x 3 inches

Like most artists, I fell into the process of making things early on.  I liked to make presents for people, and after my grandmother taught me to crochet, I started stitching things for family and friends.  I never liked rules or patterns, so I made those up too.  I felt the elation that comes from realizing an idea, from knowing the whole process.
Couplet, ceramic, 14 x 9 x 2 inches
I had a few art teachers along the way who saw my interest and singled me out.  Making things became second nature. A ceramics teacher in 10th grade was special. She taught me how to think about what I made, to make my thoughts.  Now it was more than just making things for the joy of it, it was somehow wound up in who I was, who I wanted to be, what I had to say. 
Geometric Variations, ceramic,  50 x 50 x 5 inches
I was stuck on clay early on but somehow managed to go to a college that had no ceramics classes.  This turned out to be a good thing – it made me expand. There were fantastic art professors, as well as a renowned English department. I learned to write and I learned to work with wood, to weld steel, to make prints, to draw.  I leaned that the medium was in service of the idea and to articulate my ideas in words as well as in materials. 


A Small View In, ceramic, 13 x 18 x 3 inches
All this came in handy later on. Our experiences come together eventually, wind around each other and converse.  After earning an MFA in sculpture during a period where I was mostly excited about making drawings, I found myself in need of a job.  I started working for arts organizations.  This led to a long career as a curator.  I came to it through the back door, without planning it, but have found writing about art and organizing exhibitions of contemporary art to be tremendously creative.  It’s a collaboration between me, the artists, their work and the space.  Like making art, making an exhibit happen is creating something that wasn’t’ there before. And it reflects back on to my art in unexpected ways.
 Each One to the Other, ceramic 60 x 60 x 4 inches
In the meantime, in my studio, I have come back around to working with clay.  It’s my home base.  I make things that hang on the wall, mostly.  They’re usually about place, and space, about taking you somewhere else, somewhere imagined.  They usually involve repetition and the spark between the line and the curve, between freedom and control.  This work emerges slowly, but it is always there, waiting to happen, waiting to be made.
Moving Forward/Staying Put, ceramic, 21 x 21 x 5 inches

  

This is Week 37 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Nancy’s story today!

Elizabeth St. Hilaire, Collage Artist, Tells Her Story

 

 




Teach? Oh no, I couldn’t
If you asked me a few years ago about the potential for teaching collage art workshops, I’d probably tell you that I didn’t know how to teach anyone anything. But SOMEHOW I agreed to teach a collage workshop one day when some folks emailed me from Amelia Island. My personal mantra was to always be available to new experiences and opportunities through an open mind and an open heart. So I did, I said “yes” and then I wondered,… how the hell am I going to do this?
In those days my kids were in elementary school and I had volunteered in each of their classes, every year, with the PTA Art See program where we centered a lesson and a project around a famous artist once a month. I taught K-5th grade. I also was the co-chair of the national PTA Reflections program for three years.
I kept telling myself, ”If you can teach and organize elementary kids and art programs, you can certainly teach adults who actually WANT to be there.” 
 
Just keep telling yourself that.
The Answer is Yes
Yes, I agreed to be The Amelia Island Artists Workshops Inc. FIRST visiting teacher. The man all the way to the right in the (above) photo is Sean Callahan, an amazing pet portrait and watercolor artist who emailed me prior to the class to ask me a few questions about what to expect. I visited his website www.dogtiredstudio.net and then I said… WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO TEACH THIS GUY? His work is amazing, check him out.
Guess what? Sean liked the class so much he called me three years later and asked me to come to Key West, to teach a workshop and to be a stable artist with him at the Stone Soup Gallery on White Street. Heading to Key West once a year for a solo show opening reception is not a bad gig.  Just sayin’.
I have been not only Sean’s instructor & fellow gallery artist, but also at times, his hairdresser
 
 
Sean’s Boat
 
Guess What? I could get used to this
Truth be told, I really enjoyed teaching that very first class on Amelia Island. They enjoyed having me too, since they asked me to return the following two years. Sean reminded me recently that during the Amelia Island class, he went out at lunch time and purchased a copy of Hemingway’s “Old Man of the Sea” and wove the printed pages into his boat. He said he learned a lot from me in that class (despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing) and he tells ME that he had no idea it was my very first workshop. We laugh about that together at least once a year. It seems like so long ago since that very first class I taught in Florida. We’ve become great friends.

 

Pink Polka Dot Apple / 12×12 / collage of hand-painted paper / SOLD

 


The True Joy of Teaching
I enjoy teaching workshops because it’s great to be the center of attention (right?) and to have folks be really interested in what I have to say. Truth be told, the true joy of teaching is in the people I meet, the friends I make, and continue to stay in touch with.
Cheryl and I having too much fun posing with my demo apple
Speaking of workshops, here is an interview I gave for an upcoming workshop we are hosting in Italy this summer. Please contact me if you’d like to join us:
Don’t Be a Stranger
“I’ve had some of my best conversations with strangers, she said, because they have no idea who they’re dealing with.” — Brian Andreas
 
I love Brian Andreas because his limericks really resonate with me. I TOTALLY talk to everyone I meet without any issue, when this quote showed up in my e-mail box as my subscribed story of the day, I forwarded it to everyone I knew.
I’m outgoing and certainly not shy, I love to joke and laugh with everyone and that’s what makes me a good fit for teaching. I’ll tease you, make you smile and have you feeling good about yourself and your artwork. There’s no pressure and no wrong answers or dumb questions. We don’t even “critique”, we “show and tell.”
People Make All the Difference
I’m forever thankful for the people that I meet in workshops. My student and friend Maritza took my workshop in the States, and then invited me to Bermuda (where she lives) to teach for the Bermuda Society of the Arts. I’ve had students in my classes from Alberta, Canada, Denmark, and even Qatar!
Maritza and Yours Truly in Bermuda
Try, Try Again!
I have a lot of returning students as well. If you have taken my class and want to come back for more, I’ll modify your project so that you can work at an intermediate level or on a project of your choosing. Holly has become a groupie and taken my class five times, I basically give her instruction on whatever piece she’s working on when she comes. And, since you can NEVER have enough hand-painted collage paper, everyone benefits from that component of the class.
Chuck Seaman from New York took my workshop and then came back for some pointers on how to use fluid acrylics to color his traditional Gyotaku fish prints. He offered to give me his test prints and to make me some small fish impressions in return for my instruction. SCORE! Are you kidding? I couldn’t wait to incorporate his fish impressions into my collages.
Goat Gazing / 24×20 / Collage of hand painted paper with fish prints / SOLD
Watch Me Tear Paper
I utilize my Facebook Fan Page to bring the most up-to-date in-progress photos of my collage work to the world. In addition, I feature my workshop listings and other fun things (like pictures of my shoes, my dogs under the shelf in my studio, spilled paint, and an occasional dried out lizard). If you have never visited, stop on by! Stalking is encouraged.

Nikki D. May, Artist & Designer, Tells Her Story

 
 
 
I’ve wanted to make art for as long as I can remember. I spent my childhood drawing more than anything else. I took every art class I possibly could as a teenager and never considered not studying art in college. I had a brief flirtation with graphic design when I attended the Rhode Island School of Design Pre-Collegesummer program. But this was before computers and it held no appeal for me. I much preferred the time I spent in RISD’s Nature Lab where I was able to check out a taxidermied squirrel and take it back to my dorm room to draw it.
Unlike a lot of artists, I was also always really good at and very interested in math. I may be the only art major who actually took calculus as an elective in college. When computers became easily accessible, I was immediately hooked. But it took quite a few years before my art and my computers joined forces.
 
My undergraduate studies (University of Georgia) were in fine art – drawing and painting and my graduate studies (Savannah College of Art & Design) were in fibers. In between I’ve also flirted with printmaking, ceramic sculpture and jewelry. But drawing was always my first love. 
My first job when I finished grad school was for an apparel company in Alabama, designing t-shirts for organizations like National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. Getting paid to draw plants and animals all day? Yes please! I got the job based on my drawing and (limited) design skills, but I had only used a computer for design for the one test assignment I was given for the job. So when I started working, and was presented with a computer to use to design t-shirts, I panicked (on the inside)! 
 
And so began my self-taught computer design career. I still spent the majority of my time drawing by hand, but learned how to use the computer to complete my designs. My professional life has been a tug-of-war between art and design ever since.
 
Art and design have some similarities and quite a few differences. They are both very creative endeavors that encourage problem solving and satisfy my lifelong need to create something. However, fine art (to me) allows me to be creative with no confines other than my own imagination and skill. Design is being creative in solving someone else’s problems. 
After the job at the apparel company, I moved back to Atlanta and freelanced for a while doing design and illustration for local businesses. This was in the mid 90s and the internet was just starting to be a place where people presented portfolios and looked for jobs. I taught myself enough web design and coding to put up a portfolio website to show my design and art work in the hopes of getting more freelance work. I launched a website for my newly named design business – Blue Frog Designs – in early 1997.
 
I started listing web design and HTML skills on my resume and job searching websites. In late 1997, after one freelance web design/development job I was contacted by a contracting company looking to fill a 30-day temp job doing HTML for IBM. That temp job turned into a 10-year career ending with me as a Creative Director working with clients like The New York Times, Carrefour (the second largest retailer in the world at the time) the 2000 Sydney Olympics and other global companies. 
 
It was an amazing experience that I have no regrets about, except that it took me away from working on my own art for many years. I was working 80-hour weeks and traveling quite a bit and when I had any free time, I had no creative energy left to make art. I had an amazing creative career with impressive clients and better salary and benefits than any art major ever imagines, but I was dying inside. I knew I needed to make a change.
I decided to go back to freelancing and brought Blue Frog Designs back to life, with the thought that I could control my own schedule and do enough design work to pay the bills while having the time and energy to get back to my own art. I decided that I’d need to leave Atlanta, since I wouldn’t be able to afford to live there any longer without the high-paying job. I found Paducah, Kentucky and the Artist Relocation Program while looking for a smaller, more affordable town that still had something going on culturally. This was in early 2003. By the end of that year, I was living in Paducah’s LowerTown Arts District. It was another four years before I left IBM and went out on my own again, but in that transition time, I got back into making art and settled into a community that I love.
 
I’m still walking that line between art and design, but as time goes on it’s more and more on my own terms. The design still pays most of my bills and I’m working on tipping the balance more towards art – but the tug-of-war between art and design is now feeling more like a nice balance and not a struggle. I used to see it as two different worlds that I went back and forth between, and now I’m feeling as if it’s merely two sides of who I am. My biggest project right now is merging those worlds conceptually and literally. In the past I have always considered it two separate businesses and maintained two separate websites for the art and design. I am currently working on merging the two – from Blue Frog Designs for my design work and nikkimay.com with my art portfolio – I am forming one business, one site under the name Nikki D. May Art + Design, where you’ll be able to see all of the work that I do for myself and for my clients. 

 

 
It’s been a long road, but I’m well on my way to living the more balanced life doing the art and design work that I love!

Anita Wexler, Mixed Media Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

 

I grew in a small town in Illinois; surrounded by cornfields and pastures. It was a nice quiet place to grow up in. It was scenic and beautiful, though unfortunately my family didn’t embrace the arts. When I was five years, I wanted to be a ballerina and my family just laughed. A few years later, I wanted to learn to play the piano and my mother asked me, “Do you see a piano anywhere?” So I realized my resources were pencils and notebook paper. I would draw and doodle in my classes to help me to focus. Eventually, my art teacher gave me a few pieces of drawing paper and that was my start as a visual artist.
I loved my small farm town but I just dreamt of more. I wanted to explore the different cultures and locales around the world so I joined in the U.S. Navy after high school when my parents made me turn down an art scholarship. I endured some rough times, but thankfully I ended up moving to New York City where I attended Parsons New School of Design and Bank Street College of Education, after receiving a scholarship that paid half of my tuition. Later, I went back to school and received my M. Ed from National Louis University.
My art is a reflection of my life on a personal level. I have faced financial, emotional and heartache just like so many others and my paintings are chunks of time on canvas or paper. I have travelled to over 30 countries; however, I have so many more places that I want to visit. 
My artwork is influenced from my travels and from my mentor, Philipp Valy out of New York, as well as by the Masters, Hieronymus Bosch, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst. From this I have created by own style of of “Primitive Pop”. 
My Native American roots echo through my artwork as I create outdoor sculptures in my ‘Totem Series,” which is a contemporary twist of Native American totem poles, my drawings and my paintings. 
 
I am a mother of three amazing children, who are my biggest inspiration. My hope is that I will make them proud of me. I am an Art teacher at a High School and a full-time artist/illustrator. I teach my students drawing, painting, and other art forms. 

Charles Andrade, Painter, Muralist & Lazurist, Tells His Story

Lazure for Westside Waldorf School, California 
 
 
From a young age I always had a fascination with color. I amusingly like to think that destiny played a hand in this because the cross street by my childhood home was called Goethe. There it was, a beacon of light, color and darkness, teasing my biography even back then.
In elementary school a friend and I drew cartoons for the school newsletter. That led to our working collaboratively on comic book characters we made up – giving vent and vision to our imagination, figuring out the plot and the evil villain our hero would battle. I became the colorist for our shared comics and thus began my adventures into a systematic approach to working with color.
 
Fantasy mural for private residence, Maryland
 
Throughout high school I created many greeting cards for friends and family that kept my drawing skills alive, and again, color dutifully filled in the spaces. Its study was not an exploration into its own qualities and dynamics but was creatively and stylistically hemmed in by other design requirements.
 
Underwater mural for private residence, Florida
 
 
University study brought an explosion of creative possibility but not much in the way of color theory. The drawing classes were rigorous and demanding but my painting classes were “do what you want and it would be analyzed later.”  Technical skill played little part in developing the craft of my imagination. I eventually quit and studied life outside university. I set up an easel in my apartment and would devote serious evening hours to creating paintings that allowed all manner of imagery to pour forth.
 
 
Lazure for Ecole Steiner near Paris France
 
 
Art reentered my biography in my study of Anthroposophy, a spiritual philosophy created by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. I learned a philosophy that gave me a reason to be creative. From a fuller more spiritual understanding of the place of art in human development, I was able to gain perspective on the importance creative activity had in developing my humanity.
 

 

Cycle of Life, watermedia,24″x17″

 

The idea of creating art to be more human, not to be ‘an artist,’ appealed to me more and more. Further work with Anthroposophy led me to England to study art therapy from this unique perspective at the Tobias School of Arts & Therapy. It was there that I learned the color theory of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and my creative life would change forever. Picking up where Goethe’s color theory left off, Rudolf Steiner asked artists to work with their medium to discover the creative possibilities inherent in this relationship. For painters this meant learning the dynamic qualities within each color and how these expansive and contractive forces work within the human soul as well.
 
 
Aspen Grove, pastel painting
 
 
The founder of the Tobias school told us that if we were to be art therapists, we should learn to create a therapeutic environment as well so we were taught the art of Lazure painting by a British master of this decorative wall finish. If I were to give a definition of Lazure, it would be, the atmospheric blushing of analogous colors across a white wall.
 
 
Lazure for Mt. Phoenix Community School, Colorado
 
 
Alongside my fine art and murals, Lazure painting became my life’s work – traveling worldwide to “ensoul with color” the interiors of residences, commercial settings, medical facilities, places of worship and schools, as well as lecturing and teaching workshops in the Lazure technique.
 
 
Mayan Ruins mural for child’s room, Colorado
 
 
In meditating on the qualities of different colors, I find that one better understands how to communicate and where and how it can be properly used within a compositional context. This process of working with dynamic color theory unleashes a creative relationship between the soul of the individual and the creative energies of nature.
 

For me, it has formed a healing and regenerative source of creativity where I never feel alone in these imaginative explorations but always have the inherent dynamic qualities of color as a companion to work with.
 
 
Lazure at The Titerangi Steiner School,  New Zealand
 
 
 

Jim Copening, Chef, Tells His Story

 

My life began in the Bronx, New York. When I was 2, my parents decided they wanted my siblings and I to grow up outside of the big city, so they loaded all 5 kids in the back of the car and drove out to California. We settled in the beautiful city of San Luis Obispo with its wineries, farms, sand dunes on Pismo Beach, and green rolling hills reminiscent of the Mediterranean region. It was here that I developed a passion for music and became a bass player. After living in San Francisco with my brother (a drummer) and other musicians, we moved back to New York City. I remained there for the next 30 years. 
I found New York alive with food and music from all over the world. At first, I worked in a few bands, as a studio musician, supplementing my income with work as a server in a New York landmark restaurant called Sweets, which was founded in 1842. 
 
Sweets was a family-run fine seafood establishment located at the South Street Seaport right across the street from the Fulton Fish Market. It was there that I learned about “old world” preparation and presentation of fresh fish. They used cracker crumbs to coat the fish and then clarified butter, before broiling and then baking it. The fish and seafood was as fresh as you can get, coming from across the street at the Fulton Fish Market every day.  The food was old fashioned New England style and delicious. If the market was closed, the restaurant was closed.
 
Pumpkin Cheesecake
 
Part of my life in New York was dining in fine restaurants, learning about fine cuisine from chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Terrence Brennan at Picholine and Gabriel Kruther at the Modern.  In subsequent years I worked at Esca, a Mario Batali restaurant with David Pasternak, chef; Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain, and Bill Telepan’s Telepan, an artisanal restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
 
 
Thai Curry Soup
I got to know these chefs by frequently dining in their restaurants. I asked them a lot of questions about food ingredients and preparation and they were excited to share their trade “secrets.” The chefs directed me to purveyors for spices, condiments, and other ingredients, sharing their recipes, tools, and techniques. I was fascinated by everything about preparing fine cuisine. I didn’t just want to eat it, I wanted to make it and discovered that I had a talent for cooking.
 
Lamb Tagine
 
 
My confidence as a Chef came from Susan, my wife at the time, and Patrick Pinon at Sardi’s Restaurant, where I worked for 15 years, who inspired me to cook professionally. They taste-tested my food and encouraged me to nurture my talents as a chef. I started to read cookbooks and watched the Food Network (introduced in 1993) and cooked for whomever would try out my culinary creations (it wasn’t hard to find guinea pigs). I trained myself this way for more than 10 years. In 2010 I attended the French Culinary Institute for formal training.
I was also strongly influenced by the ethnic cuisines in New York City.  The flavors of India, Thailand, the Mideast, China, Mexico and Latin America were found in restaurants and street corners throughout Manhattan. My culinary style of combining world flavors with techniques of fine cuisine had emerged. 
 
 
Donna and Jim
 
In 2006, I met my current wife, Donna Slawsky. We had a lot in common, both being musicians and artists. Donna had lived in New York City all her life and was ready for a change. I’d been in New York for 30 years and also needed to escape the hustle, bustle, and incredibly fast pace of the city. We lived in the West Village for a few years before beginning to explore possible places to resettle. 
 
Sarasota, Florida was appealing because of its arts scene and its location on the Gulf of Mexico. We started vacationing in the area and decided it was where we wanted to live. One day, while staying on Anna Maria Island, Donna found an ad for the Village of the Arts.  She wanted to visit, being an avid art lover. We actually met Brenda Smoak at her gallery there on that first visit. We’d been looking for real estate as a possible investment and found a little cottage in the center of the Village of the Arts with a beautiful backyard space that was for sale. It was being rented out as a residence at the time. We bought the house with the goal of opening a restaurant and gallery sometime in the future.
Arts & Eats in the Village of the Arts
 
In 2012, we began the renovation of the cottage at 1114 12th St. West in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts with the goal of opening a restaurant that served my cuisine and displayed the work of local artists and Donna’s mosaics.
Jim Jamming with Local Musicians
 
The rest is history. Arts & Eats Restaurant and Gallery has been open now for 4 ½ years and has received glowing reviews. I’m so fortunate to have the chance to use years of self and formal training to create international dishes for our guests. Our menu features dishes from all over the world including Morocco, Japan, Italy, China, the Mideast, Thailand, and India. We want to introduce our guests to the flavors we experienced in New York and make them feel like they’re dining in our home. 
Thanks to Brenda Smoak for this opportunity to share my story.  Food is love and art. Live. Love. Eat.
 
 
Asian Sampler

Jim Pastor, Singer/Songwriter & Musician, Tells His Story

“Art is not meant to feel good,” he said. “It’s a way of life.”
And then I woke up. I’d been dreaming I was hanging out with a classmate from high school. He was one of those prodigies, the one in a thousand, the kid with freakish vision and command of technique belying his age. I hadn’t thought about him in 25 years, yet there he was in my dream doling out advice. And sagely advice at that: pointing out that art is a way, a path, a discipline, a manner in which to engage life and view the world.

 

In the years since that dream, I’ve wrestled somewhat with the bit about art not being meant to feel good. Here’s this memory of someone I’d known who had achieved a level of mastery. If characters in our dreams can be regarded as aspects of our own consciousness revealing themselves, it would seem that I thought there might be an element of suffering involved with acquiring great skill. But upon final analysis, I understand the message to mean something akin to delayed gratification. That is, to forego the pleasurable to gain the beneficial.
The more exponents I meet and dialogue with, the more it becomes clear that the core to mastery in the arts, much less any endevour, is to make it a part of a regular day-to-day routine. Something that I just do, no big deal, with no ostentation, as natural and essential as eating and sleeping. As Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

 

Speaking of quotes, here’s the one that first opened my eyes to the whole daily discipline thing: “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.” — Ignacy Paderewski, Pianist
“Humor is your winning formula.”
So said an encouraging friend after listening to my album Welcome to Purgatory.

 

From the get go, I have not shied from including humor in my work. I was regularly recording improvised comedy skits as a kid, and the first song I put together, at age eleven, was as much a parody as it was a song. 40 years later I’m often playing in the same sandbox.
When I look back on the influences that have shaped my sensibilities, I include titans in comedy at the top of the list: Monty Python, the Goodies, Steve Martin, as well as the many artists with veins of humor — or it’s more subdued cousin, playfulness — in their work. Visual artists like Marcel Duchamp, Renee Magritte, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali; writer and raconteur Garrison Keillor; composers like Carl Stalling (Looney Tunes) and Michael Torke; musicians like Beck Hanson, Tom Waits, Dean Wareham, and Frank Zappa.
Regarding the influence of Steve Martin: one rainy day during the summer I turned 16, I walked to a bookstore and found his book of shorts, Cruel Shoes. This collection of half page vignettes had a mock enigmatic quality to them, at once celebrating and chiding artistic high mindedness. I immediately began to write — having never considered doing so previously — looking to get a piece of the tone he’d laid out. Immediately I was drawn into the meditative space that the act of writing can generate. That you could write with a broad stroke and not be limited to linear storytelling! I recall the excitement of this very liberating discovery.
Humor is not only the ends but often the means, a cornerstone of the artistic process for me. I’ll be working through a piece and will get jammed up on a choice of word, groove, chord or style. The piece will be in the neighborhood of “there” but not quite “there” — usually during that part of the editing process when the initial kernel of inspiration and improvisation is long past. And I’ll start throwing stuff at the wall, trying to get out of editor mind and back into inspired mind. Backing off mentation usually yields a good result, given time. Walking away to do an unrelated activity like a simple chore or taking a shower is great for this. Somehow a space is created for inspired mind to reboot. Then a sound byte, usually playful or humorous in nature, will pop up in non-sequitur fashion and I’ll laugh. A eureka moment. So these days my benchmark for the right edit is: “does it make me laugh?” — sometimes simply the kind of laugh that comes when a couple of things come together in an unexpected way.
“You’re one of us now,” said Stevie.
I really didn’t start thinking of myself as a musician until my thirties, having focused more on visual art and poetry in the years previous, and it wasn’t until my early forties that I pushed through enough barriers to be able to craft solid, finished songs. There was no end to my catalog of minute-long improvised riffs. I could hear the song in them struggling to emerge, yet …
And bringing together score and verse — a whole separate matter — took years to resolve. As the protagonist in my song A Killing Joke pines:
I’m just trying to find the pieces of the puzzle
Trying to scream my language through a muzzle

And I got no coffee in my coffee pot again

But caffeine deprivation aside, I kept at it. And in 2006, without much effort, came the song Naysayer, which at the time seemed like such an aberration in the ease with which it came to fruition. Fueled by that success, I kept plugging away, and within a few years I had enough command of the process to be able to bring a song together at will. Around that time I had a series of dreams where I visited with a few of the heavyweights in the music industry.
In one dream I’m hanging out with Billy Joel in his all white, double height living room while he noodles around on the piano.
In another dream, I’m eating lunch in a cafeteria when Mick Jagger walks up to my table and asks “What about the band?” and then proceeds to sit and talk with me like we’re old friends. By the end of the conversation I’ve bought into that, and we’re sharing jokes and stories. Then I say to him, “You know, I think most people think of you as more of a performer than anything else. But I can see you are really passionate about the music as well.” He seems moved and thanks me for recognizing that about him. Later in the day, while telling my wife about the dream, it occurred to me: “He was a lot shorter than I expected.”
Finally, there was this dream with Stevie Wonder. To give some backstory to its significance, I spent most of my life singing like I was sitting in a wooden pew in church. To be more specific, singing like my father did in church, which was sort of an obligatory mumble, because somewhere along the line, Italian-American men decided that singing was not a manly endeavour. How that became a thing is beyond me, because one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my life was a Sicilian man singing opera while riding a Vespa. It was during a visit to the ruin of a 4th century BC fort in Syracuse, Sicily. I was listening to my history professor describe a fierce battle that had taken place there and meanwhile caught wind of this dude navigating the windy road through the valley below. He had the bike and his voice at full throttle, bringing alive the surrounding travertine like it was some ancient Greek hillside theatre.
Anyway, it was through my wife, Patty, that I came to appreciate Stevie Wonder — our wedding dance was to his Ribbon in the Sky— and R&B at large. And at some point I opened up the vocal throttle and traded in my mumble for an R&B rumble. I remember the visceral experience of connecting my voice to emotion. It was like that movie Pleasantvillewhen the characters go from living in a world of black and white to living in one of color.
But back to the dream with Stevie: I’m visiting my parent’s house on some holiday like Easter. The doorbell rings and in walks Stevie, with his signature shades, but able to navigate around on his own as if his blindness is of no hindrance. He walks over and greets me like I’m a long lost friend, then gives me a bear hug and declares: “You’re one of us now.”
You’re one of us now. I don’t think it gets any cooler than that. All in all these dreams left me with a sense of having been initiated into an inner circle of sorts. Bottom line, they were an expression of a sense of accomplishment at having worked through barriers and having acquired new skills.
Thank you for reading. As per Garrison Keillor, in his series the Writer’s Almanac: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Carol Wiebe, Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

 
I have not followed a straight path as an artist.
As a child, I mostly drew. Pencil crayons were what was available, and so I begged for paper and made images to satisfy my inner longings. Later, when I could choose my own tools, I wanted to try everything that fell into the circle of my vision. Sewing artsy clothes, sometimes with my own dyed cloth, crocheting vests, making huge faces to hang on the wall, creating vessels or masks of papier mache, stained glass, quilting, embroidery, small purses, jewelry, neckpieces … I could list many more avenues I cruised with great abandon and willing, eager hands.
Papier-mache Vessel

      

Did I define myself as an artist, find my voice, and create a brand for myself? Good heavens, not deliberately. I just had fun!
 
 
Embroidered Necklace w/Beads & Papier-mache
I knew that if I did not let my hands and head coordinate in the manifestation of objects to satisfy my curiosity, I would be in grave trouble. Understand that I also loved to read, and write. I attended university, gaining 3 degrees (Undergraduate degree in English, an Education degree and a Masters of Library Science). I loved to learn, but seeing an object that struck me as beautiful would set off urges: I’d become ravenous to use my own aesthetic, conjure my own methods, and create an object inspired by that sighting. A period of time away from art always produced undesirable results: grumpiness, negativity and even depression.
 
 
Painted Cloth – Spirit Rising
Cloth and thread dazzled me, but paper is my mainstay. I invented a technique whereby I sandwiched felt between two layers of paper and quilted it as one would machine quilt a cloth quilt. The difference was, once stitched, the paper quilt was stiff enough to hang well, could be cut into any shape I desired, which then happily supported embellishment with paint, inks, beads, collaged elements, and whatever else I possessed in my mixed media arsenal. After what I have told you about my background, I am sure that the fact that I gravitated towards mixed media is no surprise!
 
 
Cracked Paper Quilt, 32″x35.5″, The Summoning
I was also driven by the need to use my own images, so taking photos of my paintings, drawings, and collages led to their manipulation on the computer. Dye based inks made the printouts a happy pairing with my paper quilts, which I dubbed “Cracked Paper Quilts,” after Leonard Cohen’s famous lines “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

 

Cracked Paper Quilt, 26″x35.5″, A Feast of Photons

 

Trees reach toward
the sun ~ like hands
seeking illumination.
Our bodies are
derived from light
and our hunger for it
is unceasing.
 
I have published a few articles, some poetry, had my images added to a number of books by other artists. I have taught classes here and there. But it is invariably difficult for me to pull myself away from my current obsession, and I always have one. For example, designing stencils. I have become part of the StencilGirl family, with Mary Beth Shaw at the head. It is great fun, and rewarding to see other people do amazing things with my stencil designs. I think of as collaborators.
 
 
Journal Spread, Auspicious
Another recent passion of mine is making handmade journals and creating art on the iPad using apps. This is a whole new world, and I am rushing in, like an angel, where fools fear to tread. Many people still resist the crossing of that digital divide yet I have found it exhilarating. The benefits are many — I can make art anywhere and I can print out my images to use in my handmade journals. I use anything and everything: my own photographs, photos of my paintings, and bits and pieces I glean here and there (that you would never connect to the original source). They simply get me going, and I fly with the angels, or at least with my own, ever-active imagination.
 
Cracked Paper Quilt, 17″x22″, Protected
 
I am SO grateful to have spent a number of decades dancing, playing, interacting, and above all, CREATING with that imagination of mine. 
It is a gift beyond reckoning.
 
 
Painting, 8″x10, Sacred Scars
 
This is Week 9 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Carol’s story today.

 

Journal Cover pages, 5.5″x8.5″, Fly

 

Kemlyn Tan Bappe, Paper Batik Artist, Tells Her Story

I grew up in Singapore and am most at ease when penning my ideas with a brush. At the age of 13, I began oil painting and identified myself as painter. I went to high school in Hong Kong and Singapore. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Baylor University, Waco, Texas, a Master of Divinity in Theology from Southwestern Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, and a Master of Arts in Special Education from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. I currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona with my husband and three children. I am of Peranakan* descent.
What is Paper Batik?
 
The Peranakans use batik in their traditional clothing and linens. Batik is a traditional process of using resist and dyes on fabric. 
 
Ambient Moons, Paper Batik
 
As a contemporary Peranakan artist, I apply these traditional fiber techniques to paper. I was first introduced to this process by Dr. Janet Hart Heinicke, an artist and educator. This media allows me to meander surfaces with intricate lines illuminated with vibrant colors that can come only from silk dyes. I love being an artist because I am not hindered by my print disability.
 
Embracing Autumn, Paper Batik
Living with Dyslexia
 
About ten years ago, I was struggling to read an instruction manual in Singapore. Vince Devadason, a remedial reading specialist asked me if I had trouble reading. After an in-depth conversation, he conducted a few tests and that was how I was finally identified as an adult living with dyslexia.
 
Lotus Pond, Paper Batik
 
When I was an elementary student, I thought everyone struggled with seeing the words on a page. My words and letters loved to dance. They sometimes exchanged positions. Other times, they would disappear completely. There were times they hopped from left side of the page to right and then suicide-slid down the cliff of words. My inability to control these dancers on print made it difficult to succeed academically. I was bestowed many titles in school including “stupid,” “lazy,” “retarded,” and “rebel.” After a while, this recording embedded, and I began to wonder if the labels were true. I began to shy away from academics and invested my energies into sports and the arts.
 
It was no wonder that I became an art major and a professional artist and it was no surprise that being a teacher never made it on my list of career preferences. So, it is ironic that I just completed my Masters degree in Special Education.
 
Phoenix Rising, Acrylic
 
After my official diagnosis with dyslexia (words and letters), dyscalculia (numbers), and cognitive disorder (a fancy term to describe the fact that my intellect is significantly higher than my ability to test academically), I continued to work as a teaching artist in schools around Iowa and nationally without broadcasting my disability. However things changed. In one classroom, I observed that a student was struggling with reading. I asked him if the font size or font might be difficult to read. He said that he felt tired and his eyes hurt when he read. I zipped over to the computer, changed the font to a non-serif font (Arial) and printed the instructions off. He said that he could read it. I thought he would be grateful. Instead, he became irate. “How did you know what to do?” 
 
“Er, it’s because I live with dyslexia?”
 
“Ms. Bappe, I have dyslexia, too. You’re the first adult that I know that has this. Why don’t adults talk about stuff like this?” I didn’t have a good answer. After a long reflection, I decided to come out about my learning disability, and thus I began my journey with VSA, an organization for arts and disabilities. In 2009-10 I was a recipient of the VSA National Teaching Artist Fellowship and had the opportunity to teach at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Through VSA and the wonderful people I have met, I have learned to proclaim: “Don’t fixate on what I can’t do. Celebrate what I can do!” I became a VSA Arts and Inclusion Presenter and had opportunities to teach about creating inclusive classrooms using the arts. I loved working with students like me with learning disabilities, and that led me to go back to school and pursue Special Education at the University of Iowa. 
 
I now speak openly about my challenges and strategies in the classroom. I am a teaching artist. I use arts integration strategies with students living with learning disabilities in Phoenix, Arizona and continue to model the life of a professional artist.
 
Guardian Dragon, Paper Batik
Artist Statement
 
Each piece of artwork describes a lesson or hope that I embrace.
Phoenix Rising encapsulates the ascent from brokenness to healing.
Ambient Moons taught me that every creature is beautiful when it finds its context.
 
Guardian Dragon is a symbol of protection in Chinese lore. Dragons to represent prayers I have for those in our community who face suffering.
 
Lotus Pond is a motif in many Asian cultures that represents the return of spring and renewal.
 
Embracing Autumn is a question inspired by fall leaves. How will we face the challenge of change and transition in our lives?
 
Background Info on Peranakan culture:
*Signs of Peranakan culture can be found as early as the 14th century. “The Peranakan Chinese are descendants of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca and around the coastal areas of Java and Sumatra. In the 19th century, the Peranakan Chinese, drawn by commerce, migrated to the bustling ports of Penang and Singapore (“Who are the Peranakans, peranakanmuseum.sg.).” 

Michael F. Beard, Painter, Tells His Story

 
My great dilemma at East Carolina University back in 1970 was deciding whether my major would be art or biology. I chose art and have since incorporated my love of natural things into my paintings. My Dad, who was paying my tuition, was not real happy with my choice. I had to fight hard to follow my passion for art.
 
 
Emerging Life 2, 24”x18”
 
In the 70s and 80s it was a struggle to find time and space to paint while raising a family with five daughters. I used the attic loft in my Cape Cod style house in McLean, Va. as a studio. After my girls had grown up quite a bit, my wife and I divorced and I moved into a small colonial house in Silver Spring, MD. I used the living room as my studio. 
 
 
 
Emerging Life 1, 22”x28”
 
 
One of my favorite paintings occurred one evening when about 10pm I was hit with the inspiration to paint. I stayed up all night inspired by the colors of a Tiffany lamp and produced “Luminosity”.
 
 
Luminosity, 4′ x 4′
 
 
For 17 yrs. I was the Executive Director of the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. I was heavily influenced by the amazing beauty and grace of the ballet. I incorporated some of that movement in the lines of my paintings.
 
 

Red Floral Cascade, 30” x 24”
 
 
Wherever I am I see colors and shapes that I want to experiment with on canvas. So I try to have my camera with me to capture the moment. I love the brilliant colors and sensual forms of flowers and plants. Playing with them on the canvas led to my cascading flower series. 
 
 
 

Blue Floral Cascade, 30” x 24”

 
What excited me most was discovering everything going on inside of the flowers I observed. The subtle folds, the hidden crevices, the fascinating shapes. I wanted to bring them to life in a painting that moved and swirled.  Then I started seeing shapes that looked like other living things and that led to the “Birth of Everything”.
 
 
Birth of Everything, 30″ x 24″

I am now semi-retired and living in Naples, Florida with my wife, Eileen. I’ve finally got more time to paint!
 
 
 
Secret Life of Flowers, 30″ x 40″
 
 

Marcie Wolf-Hubbard, Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

I have always loved to draw — maybe as a connection to the world, my response, or appreciation. This goes for landscapes, nature, up close, and the figure. I think it’s my intimate, quiet observing that separates me from the wild, noisy, sometimes rude, uncaring world, seeking the beauty of nature.

As a student at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Institute, College of Art my focus was improving my skills as an artist. In my teaching, being able to share my love of art will hopefully inspire others and improve their skills. Icontinually remind students to look, and that is what I continue to do. I think that looking is how I draw.

Girl with Flowers, Charcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel, 14″H x 11″W x .5″D

 

When I think about drawing and my materials I’m remembering how satisfied I was when I could work with chalk pastels to develop a landscape. The pastels could be painterly, and I felt I could achieve the feel of the landscape and create atmosphere. Moving the chalk with my fingers, I would blend the colors. The combination of materials and motion of my process seemed to bring about what I saw and felt. When I worked in oils, I loved that with a brush I could move the colors, blend and draw and that seemed to work for me. I experimented with surfaces, and found that I wanted to add more to build texture. A tar paper surface works well for landscape painting. Drawing into the paint, the black textured paper shows through. Revealing the dark background gives my paintings depth.
About ten years ago I learned about weekly life drawing sessions at Montgomery College. I’ve been going there regularly ever since. It had been many years since my life drawing classes in college. Now, if I miss a week of drawing, it feels like a huge sacrifice. That’s how important the weekly sessions are to me. My charcoal of choice is General’s 6B (soft) compressed charcoal sticks. I’m able to draw lines with the charcoal, capturing gesture. I move the charcoal with my fingers to give the drawings a tonal quality, which can define the volume of the figure. Here, I am able to be painterly with charcoal.
Well TraveledCharcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel,  12″H x 14″W x .75″D

 

I don’t know if it was the first time, but I started taking notice of other artists’ work in encaustic in 2009 at The Divas and Iron Chefs of Encaustic Exhibition at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. In 2010, I was included in The University of Maryland University College’s exhibition, “Mind, Body, Spirit, Celebrating Regional Women Artists.” There, I found other artists working in encaustic and I finally thought that I would like to do this.
I think what captivated me about the encaustic paintings I saw was the surface. The painting did seem more like a construction, a play of light, with a surface you wanted to touch.

 

Yours TrulyCharcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel, 14″H x 10″W x .5″D

 

Ellyn Weiss, an artist whom I have admired, instructed me to ‘bring whatever I liked with me for my tutorial with her in encaustic painting. I brought my drawings from the life drawing sessions along with miscellaneous materials and started exploring encaustic painting. I was hooked and that started my love of working in encaustic. I’ve loved seeing Ellyn’s work through the years. I’m especially drawn to her palette and the energy of her paintings and drawings.

Eagle EyesCharcoal, encaustic on panel,  13″H x 9.5″W x .5″D

 

Today, I use the encaustic painting to highlight my drawings. I feel the added texture, luminosity, layers, and dimension all help in my construction or building of my artwork. I add, and take away, sometimes making the painting more of a sculptural form. The carving away is another form of drawing. You have to see it and touch it to understand. It is the back and forth nature of collage that lends itself well to encaustic painting. Collage elements add more texture, dimension and depth to the paintings. I may work with a painting for weeks, or over a month. It is rare to do a painting in one sitting. That is also my approach with mixed media/collage. I need to live with it, get a better look at the parts of it, and think about what may be necessary.

Snowy Trail in Rock Creek ParkOil on roofing paper, 48″H x 28″W

 

This past year has been a difficult year for my family. David, my husband, had surgery in July to remove a cancerous tumor from his duodenum (small intestine.) The extensive surgery was a success and he is now managing the results of the surgery and chemotherapy. Our regular walks we take together in beautiful Rock Creek Park continue to inspire me. We’re fortunate to have our younger son Rigel with us now to help at home and offer his positive spirit, but we know we’ll miss him terribly when he leaves for Armenia in March to join the Peace Corps. Our older son Orion has been working for several years in Hubbard’s Fine Art Services, my husband’s art installation and sculpture conservation business. Orion has gained the expertise in working in metal and he thinks like an engineer to manage installing and securing art in all kinds of ways. David and I look forward to visiting Rigel in Armenia and I am also investigating artist residencies in Armenia.

Burlesque, Grande, Charcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel,  15″H x 10″W x .5″D
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doug D’souza, Jewelry Designer, Tells His Story

My journey as a maker started with first being a breaker. As a child, I was fascinated with technology and had a deep desire to understand how things worked. I would meticulously take my toys apart to satisfy my curiosity, then try to reassemble them. I was mostly successful and learned early on that my hands could make things.
I was born in Mumbai, India where I experienced cultural and religious diversity, and rich colors and textures that would later influence my work. I moved to the US in 1980 to pursue my education and career in engineering mechanics.
After graduation I started working for BMW, a job I enjoyed for almost a decade. Then one seemingly ordinary day, a high speed rear collision changed the course of my life, and at the same time turned on a creative light that has shone bright ever since. 
After the accident, I could no longer physically do the work so I set out to nurture my creative side with a course in Graphic Design. This led to an internship in a local studio where I learned how to etch and carve glass. I created edge-lit sculptures, lamps and room dividers using hand-fabricated copper to frame the glass. Unfortunately once again, another accident would change my direction. A back injury during an installation forced me to shrink my canvas to a more manageable size.
I was always drawn to metal. Already familiar with copper, I learned jewelry metal smithing through books and video tutorials. It all seemed to come quite naturally to me. The process of designing, sawing, shaping and soldering metal is very meditative by nature. I spent hours sitting at my bench totally in the zone practicing various techniques to achieve my desired results.
Mixed Metal Copper/Silver Resin
I started creating small wearable sculptures as pendants and earrings using copper, silver and pigmented resin. They were hollow forms that were inspired by seed pods. They started out as flat sheets of metal that were textured or embossed using various methods, then shaped using forming tools and pierced with a hand saw. Silver accents were sometimes added to them and back set with pigmented resin over silver leaf, a self-taught technique that I still use today.
Symbols Bracelet
While growing up in India I was exposed to many religions. I was raised Roman Catholic, but my friends were Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jains, etc. I was curious about other faiths and always kept an open mind. To me religions were cultural, like ethnic food, and India offered a smorgasbord. They basically all had the same message . . . just be nice, and try to get along. It doesn’t matter what discipline you subscribe to, as long as it makes you a better person.
In that spirit and an interest in numerology, I designed a collection of symbol pieces that evoke messages of love, peace, and tolerance.
Rustic Wedding Bands
Over the years I have received many custom requests, including wedding bands. One particular request was for a men’s mixed metal rustic style wedding band. Since I was already working with mixed metals and I love textures, I combined them to make my first rustic band.
I was quite pleased with the outcome, and began designing a collection of them. These rings are not mass-produced, but are completely hand-fabricated and start with strips of contrasting metals. The lining is sterling silver, and the textured insert is copper, or gold. I have recently started offering copper and bronze with surgical stainless steel linings for those who are sensitive to silver.
The majority of my customers are quite happy with the textures I offer, but some request something more personalized. For example, I received a request from a firefighter who liked the overall look of the ring but wanted flames around the band, and a personalized message engraved inside. I feel truly honored to create something so meaningful that symbolizes the love shared by two people. They are available in custom widths and combinations of non precious and precious metals including rose, yellow and white gold.
Enameled Pendant
What I love about the jewelry industry is how multi-faceted it is. There are so many areas to explore and processes and techniques to learn, that you’re almost guaranteed to find your niche somewhere. About a year and a half ago, I met a talented enamel artist in town. Her beautiful work was inspiring, and I found myself  purchasing her video tutorial, equipment and supplies. I was subsequently off on a journey of fusing glass to metal and discovering the joy and frustration of enamelling. It was challenging, addictive, and very satisfying.
Suddenly my color palette had exploded, and now offered over a hundred and fifty colors of powdered glass to play with. By combining familiar colors that I was exposed to in India, I could now express texture and design in color. Being a metal smith has some advantages. I can cut and shape metal before applying enamel to it, fabricate settings for focal pieces, and compliment them with stones.
All stages in the process of enamelling are exciting, from design to preparation of the metal, applying layers of powdered glass, to watching it melt and fuse. One big lesson learned is that it’s extremely important to write down and follow every step of the process to recreate a specific look. For some of the textured pieces, the techniques I use only give me about seventy-five percent of control over the final outcome, the rest is in the hands of the enamel gods, who can be quite temperamental.
Just a few seconds in time, and a few degrees in temperature can also make a big difference in the result, which can only be seen after it is removed from the kiln and cooled. This can be very exciting and suspenseful . . . perhaps another reason why I’m drawn to enameling.
Carved Inlaid Stone
In my years as a metal smith, I have set many stones in silver, most of them were bezel set. I was playing with the idea of reversing those roles . . . setting metal in stones. That meant carving the stones and inlaying them with metal. I started with a river rock, and a piece of textured brass that I had sawed out in the shape of a splash. I added a small Malachite stone for contrast then carved the rock so the splash fit perfectly. I liked the look and feel of it, but wanted more contrast between the metal and the rock. The next one was carved deeper with the silver splash sitting below the surface of the tear drop shaped Bloodstone, and was accented with a Ruby.
Modern Vintage Ring
I originally designed the Modern Vintage rings in mixed metals of aluminum, and brass, copper or bronze. They were adjustable cuff rings made of a thick gauge (food grade) aluminum, but were extremely lightweight. I also offer them in silver and stainless steel as cuff or closed rings with contrasting metals.
MFA Egyptian Show
It was my honor to participate in the Museum of Fine Arts Egyptian Erotica show in St. Petersburg, Florida. Using an image from a Nineteenth Dynasty Turin Papyrus, I created a bronze and leather adjustable bracelet that was featured on one of the models.
I work out of my home studio in Gulfport, Florida, and sell online through my website and Etsy store.
I should be content with where I am, but there’s currently a new piece of equipment sitting in my studio to cut and shape stones . . . so stay tuned!
This is Week 26 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Doug’s story today. To connect with Doug and see more of his work.

Cynthia Farrell Johnson, Painter, Tells Her Story

 

I feel driven to create art — it’s like breathing – I can’t live without it! There has never been a time in my life when I have not been drawing or painting ideas that popped into my head. That these images provide joy and comfort to others is a bonus.

 

Brooklyn Sunset, India Ink, 9 ½” x 7 ½”

 

My earliest “art” memories are of my mother keeping me quiet in church by drawing something on a pad she kept in her purse. Then she would give it to me, indicating that it was my turn to draw. By focusing on the drawing, I was transported to another realm; a wonderfully peaceful place. When my late father would ask me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday, the answer was always the same, a paint-by-numbers set. But that became frustrating because I always seemed to run out of paint before filling in all the numbers.
Isaiah 58:11, Mixed Media, Gouache,
India Ink, Collage, 10 ¾” x 8 ¾”
Eventually, thanks to friends and relatives, I received lots of art supplies and drew and painted to my heart’s content. When it became clear that I was interested in a career in the arts, teachers helped me create a portfolio for my application to the High School of Art & Design in New York City. The school which is located in mid-town Manhattan’s advertising district, trained students for commercial and theatre art careers. That is where I was introduced to gouache paints, in my advertising and illustration classes. It has been my preferred medium ever since.
In the Zone, Gouache, 8″ x 10”
Over the years, because of my use of bright colors, I realized that art could also be healing. In the summer of 2001, I was busily working on a number of pieces for a solo show at the former Parish Gallery in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The opening reception was scheduled for September 21, 2001. Then 9/11 happened. I asked the late Norm Parish if we should still go ahead with the opening. He felt that it was needed. And he was right! Some of my friends from New York attended and said that they were so glad I did the opening. The artwork was so vibrant and cheerful; it was a much-needed tonic for that difficult time.  From that day forward, creating work to lift the spirits of others became my mission.
Many Thousands Gone, (from the Spirituals Series),
Gouache, 15″ x 20”
Our world is full of rich, beautiful colors. My goal as an artist is to record beauty. In the process, I hope my art will bring joy to the viewer’s life.
Nature’s Bounty II, Mixed Media,
Gouache & India Ink, 11″ x 14 ½”
Most of us are looking for ways to make life better for future generations. And while we all may be facing challenges, we live with the faith that tomorrow will be better. So, day in, day out, we seek ways to build bridges of understanding. We must also deal with those who are bent on destruction and discord. Daily, we are bombarded with reports of unspeakable horrors, caused by forces of nature or by human frailties. Yet even in the midst of this chaos, one can find beauty, peace and comfort.
Ecclesiastes 9:4a, Gouache, 8 ¼” x 11 7/8”
My mission is to record as much of life’s beauty as possible, using the richest color combinations I can devise. My goal is to remember that every day there are more individuals acting out of love and kindness than hate. In telling their stories, I hope to inspire or comfort others.
Gimme Your Hand, (from the Spirituals Series),
Mixed Media: Gouache & Collage, 16 ¾” x 10 ¾”
This is Week 47 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Cynthia’s story today. To connect with her and see more of her work.