Many people write and ask me if I teach. For a long time, I had to say no, since my teensy-tiny studio is just not big enough for me to even offer private lessons. But the last year or two, I’ve been teaching at a wonderful teaching studio: Wax Works West. This is a fantastic space to teach and learn in, and Judy and Wendy, the artists who own the studio, are so funny, knowledgeable, and kind.
Wax Works studio, ready to go..
I enjoy teaching. I like sharing what I know, and learning from my students, and I love it when someone emails me after and tells me that the techniques I shared are making a difference for them in the studio.
Two weekends ago, I taught my 3-day class, “Precision, Layering and Clarity”, and I’ll be teaching it again in June. This class offers in-depth instruction in working with smooth, transparent layers, and how to better control techniques such as intarsia and stenciling. Many of my students spend time refining their fusing techniques, and I help them troubleshoot what I call “puddle syndrome”. That’s when you over-fuse, blowing out your imagery in the process. (Yup, happens to everyone)
I’ll also be teaching a new class in December, just in time to add a little fun and shine for the dark of winter: “Encaustic Bling”. In this 2-day class, I’ll be focusing on reflective surface work, incorporating materials such as metallic encaustic paint, glitter, heat transfer paper, mica, etc. It will be a lot of fun. I hope you can join me!
“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Only press on: no feeling is final.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours
At the beginning of every year, I like to take a look backward at the previous year before looking forward. Last year, I said that 2013 was weird. 2014 kicked my ass. Things, as they say, got real. Winter is always a time of introspection and generation for me, and it’s in this spirit that I offer this look back:
- We kicked off the new year with excitement about my father’s heart transplant. It was successful, and his recovery was strong. My parents lived with us during his early recovery, and I was able to have lots of quality time with both my mom and my dad. What a gift.
- I continued to teach, and I even took a class myself, with Laura Moriarty. It was such a treat to be a student again, and to use wax in ways so different from my own. I’ll be learning more from others in 2015.
- My son and I visited schools in Southern California. I can hardly believe he’ll be going to college in the fall.
- I took a wonderful trip to New York in July with my husband James, and some really fun friends. Walked the high line. Checked out the gallery scene in the lower east side. Walked the Brooklyn Bridge, drank too much coffee, and generally had a fantastic time.
- I started drawing again. I drew and painted a series of 50 tiny images in 50 days.
- Started running again, after a break of many years. I had forgotten how much I love it.
- In August, a sad thing: my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly from an embolism.
Okay, I just sat here for half an hour lost in thought while the cursor blinked on the screen. What can I say? Most people I know have lost someone close to them, and a lot of my friends have lost parents, so I don’t feel alone in this experience at all. For me, it felt as though I’d tripped and fallen into a very deep dark hole for several weeks. Reality felt a little slick, and time seemed to slow down for a few months. There was a lot of business to attend to, and family to check in with, and my mom to worry about.
And then, slowly, things returned to sorta-normal.
But they haven’t, not really. And that’s where the lines from the poem above come in. My main message to myself throughout this ordeal was the same one I try to hold with making art: Stay with yourself. Stay with the moment. Pay attention. It’s all okay. It all passes by, and we come out the other end. We are rarely the same person, though, if we are really paying attention. I see that as a good thing. I’m still sad sometimes, and I miss my dad, but I feel more settled in myself as well- more present in my mind, more attached to my bones, with more gravity in my heart.
Life (and art) changes us, if we let it.
I am so pleased to tell you that this painting, along with several others, is in Miami with Hang Art, where the Aqua Art Miami Fair begins this evening.
I created large pieces for the fair- the above painting is 36 x 48 inches- and while I was painting and building up the layers I was thinking a lot about the balance between simplicity and complexity. My goal was to find an efficiency in the complexity. These paintings have a bit less layering and more breathing room.
I found that stripping away some of the busyness made every mark count more. Then I made sure I went over the top with one element, whether it was glitz or scale or luminescence. I’ve also been falling in love with what’s been happening in the background with the graphite, and I didn’t want that to be lost. As a result, the atmospheric stripes are more prominent in these paintings, and I’m really liking it.
If you, or anyone you know, are in Miami this week looking at art, stop by the Hang Gallery room at Aqua! They’re showing work of gallery artists who’s work deals with light and reflection, and I think it will be a fabulous showing.
That’s a tall stack of potential. I’m so excited to dig into this bundle of mini-panels. They measure just 6 x 6 inches. Fifty of them. When I first started writing this blog in 2008 (has it really been that long?!), I started a similar project. I’d taken a break from working with encaustic and wanted to start again. How to incubate the new ideas I had in mind?
We had a piece of smooth plywood leftover from a house project, so I asked a friend if he’d cut it up for me on his table saw. The result was 36 eight-inch panels to experiment with. Over the course of working those 36 panels, my ideas were tried, edited, and developed. A whole body of larger works grew out of that series of tiny paintings.
I’ve been drawing experimentally this past year, and am continuing on these panels. Silverpoint and water media on gesso. I’m going to gesso all of them today, and work on all fifty at the same time, rotating around as intuition dictates, and see what happens.
This is a wonderful way to explore a new medium or idea, to play around without committing very much space or time or materials. I highly recommend this approach. Last time I did it, I went from this….
I just never know where it’s going to take me.
I’ve been sensitive to the rhythm of my work lately. More so than usual. I think it’s because I’m pushing out in a few directions beyond my habitual territory—photographing more, drawing, experimenting with new mediums—and it’s uncomfortable. Starting something new is exciting, yes, but it’s also emotionally difficult.
An idea is only a beginning, and what follows the initial rush is usually heavy with failed attempts, self doubt, resistance, and moments of profound lethargy. Sometimes, if I am persistent, this awfulness is followed by hints of something good. This stage is filled with intuitive changes of approach. If I keep going at it, the cycle of thought and action come together with integrity, and a new direction emerges. Then I know it’s time to get up and run with it. Until then, it’s a bit like wading through deep mud.
These ups and downs…I’m starting to embrace the idea that this is just part of the ebb and flow. Adding new things to my creative practice also shakes up my routines, and I find myself re-negotiating my work rhythms, both energetically and emotionally. For instance, I have to be rigorously honest with myself about the difference between procrastination and giving a certain work some space to settle or develop.
When I’m trying new things, procrastination turns into a proper noun. Meet Procrastination, capital “P”. It takes a lot of self-honesty and dedication to have any kind of creative practice. Add fear and doubt to the mix, and Procrastination, and it’s evil twin, Resistance, become my constant companions. So I am daily having to tell them to piss off. I’ve got work to do.
It’s been a while since I wrote here in this space, but I wanted to share a few upcoming events with you… the first is a brief artist talk I’m giving this Sunday:
This is very casual and fun, a quick thing to drop into on Sunday afternoon. If you are in the area, come by and say hello!
The second announcement is that I am teaching a second 3-day class this year at Wax Works West. In my classes, I focus on control, layering, and transparency, and my students have a lot of time to practice and work in the super supportive environment that Judy and Wendy provide. I know this seems that this is really far in advance to be announcing this but my prior classes have filled fast, so if you are interested in joining us, don’t hesitate- check out their website schedule.
Maybe I’ll see you soon…
That’s my husband’s commentary up there. Love it. Is it a keeper? I think so.
Someone a long time ago gave me this advice: when you develop a body of work, pick out at least one piece to keep for yourself, for your own collection. I haven’t always felt that I’ve had the luxury of taking this advice, always feeling a bit desperate about having enough work to satisfy the requirements for a show, or fretting that keeping the “best one” will prevent a sale…
But really, the best one? That’s such a subjective thing. So often, a painting that I’m not so sure about, or the one I think is too minimal, or the one that makes me a bit uncomfortable- that’s the one someone loves. So you just never know.
So I’m just not going to worry about it anymore. I’m keeping this one for myself.