Saturday, March 26, 2011


So it's been sort of a shitty-ish day. That means this post probably is not going to meet the expectations of you, my loyal 2.3 readers, in terms of creative brilliance. It's going to be a little bit more like a rant.

Contributing to the overall tone of the day is a little problem I had with an art piece earlier. I decided to make one very last final tweak to an encaustic piece I was very very fond of, and managed to destroy it in the process. I liked this little piece so much because it was small and cute and sweet in a way; I was thinking about my awesome former students in Boone when I made it, and it was one of those magical little moments when a little bit of experimenting and flailing results in something even better than what you were trying for. I'd already signed it and named it, I liked it so much, and I was trying to come up with a strategy for framing it for presentation.

And then I screwed it up.

"No More Snow"
3.5 x 4 inches
no longer available
because I ruined it
This really, really upset me for several reasons. The obvious reason is that I crapped up something I loved, followed closely by the fact that I knew better than to touch it again after I'd decided it was done and yet I went and touched it again, so the blame for the destruction was entirely mine. A third factor: it underscored how far I am from really being able to work my new medium and command my new tools, heightening my frustration with the process of gettting what's in my head out onto a panel.

The fourth: it heightened my interest in and desire for some form of in-depth instruction from someone who has a process and/or produces work that I resonnate with, who seems to work in a way that would actually inform my own.

This is a problem, because that instruction is available. Two artists I admire very much are holding a four-day workshop in the San Francisco area at the end of May. This is a location I know I will have no problem getting around in, nor any difficulty in finding a cheap or possibly free place to stay. I looked at airfares, and they are not as high as one might imagine if you're willing to take the reddest red eye ... and for this I would be. The problem, even though this is being promoted as both an encaustic technique and practice workshop and a sort of "self-confidence building" workshop FOR ARTISTS who are serious enough about their practice to want to commit themselves to it full-time, is that the workshop "early bird" registration fee is $899, and it goes up to $999 after April 1. This fee includes lunches, snacks, materials and instruction. Lodging, dinner, breakfast, incidentals and getting around are entirely on your own.

The refund policy basically states, "we don't refund your money for anything."

I'm sure the organizer would say "It's your LIFE! It's your WORK! Isn't it WORTH that kind of investment?" Why, of course it's worth that kind of investment. I'm sure every serious artist I know would be more than happy to invest $899 in the futherance of his or her career ... IF WE HAD THE MONEY TO BEGIN WITH.

Yes, the organizer is an artist, and a very good one. I like her work. But she has mentioned in the past that she makes six figures as an artist. And she came into that place of being from making six figures as a physician. Is she perhaps a bit out-of-touch with the reality that the rest of us live in?

This is why founding the Free Atelier has become so important to me.

I'm tired of looking at "residencies" that sound wonderful until you get to the inevitable statement in the description that runs something along the line of "You pay us $500/week for the privilege of living in this empty cabin on our swampland and making art. No stipend. Meals extra."

News flash: I can sit in my own house on my swampland and make art without a stipend, and my meals are included, and it's NOT going to cost me an extra $500/week.

I'm sick of "opportunities" to focus on your work as long as you don't focus on the fact that you're still paying your rent at home and yet you're supposed to feel privilged and special because you've been selected as the lucky new payee--er, I mean, artist in residence--for some organization that owns a loft attached to a thrift shop that will let you have the run of the place as long as you pay them $300/week and for any "materials" you happen to use from the thrift shop, work one shift downstairs at the cash register (unpaid), help install the next show (unpaid) and keep the kitchen clean (meals not included).

I'm pissed off by "workshops" that sound like they offer things that would truly be helpful for real, practicing artists, but are priced more to appeal to retired ophthamologists and monied dilettants. (In case you haven't experienced this, monied dilettants may not be the best critique partners to have.)

So, this workshop ... $899 x 30 slots / 2 instructors = $13,485 for three-and-a-half days. (Yes, encaustic materials are expensive. But they're not THAT expensive.)

Bring me a monied dilettante or two, who love the art they do and just want some honest critique and are willing to pay for it, and some artists who have a typical artist's income but would relish the time to spend a week thinking, eating, breathing and dreaming art. I bet Free Atelier can do them both one turn better.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Still More Hot Stuff

encaustic, paper, wire and
stamped image on
encausticbord and
3x5 inches
I'm putting a lot of time into my encaustic pieces lately. I recently was accepted into a small local gallery co-op, so there's a tiny piece of wall space in downtown Raleigh with my name on it. Right now I have a couple of black and white photographs up, but they just kind of get lost in the space. I think the encaustics will pop and draw people's attention because they're familiar and painting-like, but obviously different somehow. I have one piece I was going to give away, but I think I'll frame it and put a price on it and see what happens. I have two to three others that are also likely candidates. The panels will all get similar framing treatments; I'm still not 100% certain what to do with the cradled birch pieces yet. In theory, they mimic canvas on stretcher bars, but I am reluctant to just paint or wax over the edges and leave it at that. I recently saw the work of another encaustic artist who took her cradled pieces and mounted them to pieces of slate tile and painted the cradle edges to match. I loved the effect, and am considering something similar, although I haven't really settled on anything specific.

The Last Time I
Went Fishing
encaustic and oil paint
on canvas panel
6x9 inches
 I spent about 3 hours in my studio this afternoon, working on probably five pieces at once. It seems there's a lot of flailing around that has to happen before I start producing things I like. I'm beginning to understand that my "signature" approach blends both wax and oil paint. My favorite piece from this evening, which I started a few nights ago, basically went from nothing to something in a few minutes when I applied some pigmented wax to the top half of the piece then followed that up with some oil paint, which I brushed on. Fusing the oil into the wax is a required step (the oil paint will never dry if you don't), instead of just heating the wax enough for the oil paint to set into it, I overfused it and when it became liquid, I began working it with a brush. As a result, I have several brushes that are crudded up with both oil paint and wax. I'm sure cleaning is going to be an adventure, but I'm so happy with the results that it was definitely worth it.

I think the next step is probably learning more about brush techniques. I've been toying with the idea of taking an oil painting class, even though I have no interest in ever approaching oil painting in the "traditional" way. I've ordered a book on brushwork and found a class that starts soon that is for absolute beginners in oil paint, but I would hate to spend the money on a class and wind up having someone trying to help me paint a cow or a tree in something approaching a realistic fashion.

Walk with Me
encaustic and oil paint on
canvas panel
6x9 inches
(in progress)
 My one concern is that I still haven't come up with a way to combine encaustic with my photography. Perhaps the secret is a sort of hand-coloring approach using wax and oil paint combined and worked with a brush. It sounds likely, but figuring out how to actually make that happen may be a little more problematic than I anticipate. I've also had some thoughts recently about creating pieces that are about skylines, and given my level of drawing ability (as in none), that may be a chance to test this particular approach as well.

The other thing I've been thinking about a lot recently is the idea of the Free Atelier. If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, you'll know I not too long ago performed a guided meditation that resulted in a Big Idea. A lot of people seem to think it's also a Good Idea. The next phase of it, though, is figuring out how to do other similar things that can actually fund the Free Atelier; maybe adding several weeks or weekends per month where it's not free and not limited to serious artists, possibly adding classes, art tours, mentoring sessions or help with conceptual development. The gallery co-op has access to a teaching space and I'm already being encouraged to set up some classes there; I have plenty of room in my home and property as well. It's a lot to think about, but definitely worth thinking about. There are still a lot of questions, but it's looking more and more like something I'm going to have to try. If any of you are sitting on lottery winnings and would like to invest in an art and creativity development program, here's your chance to get in on the ground floor.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Spoonflower and Other Distractions

The Box, packed full
of fabric. Plus ribbon.
Some of you may know that I have a fabric jones. I don't sew (too fiddly), I don't do fabric collage (too crafty), I don't seem to use it in any way whatsoever, but I love a gorgeous piece of fabric and I have an extensive fabric collection: end pieces, remnants, quilters' quarters ... you name it. I have never had any idea what I wanted to do with my fabric ... I've made some of it into bookcloth for special projects, but other than that, what I want to do with it is a mystery.

Recently, I've found a wonderful outlet for taking some of the other artwork I'm doing and turning it INTO fabric. This feeds both my fabric jones and my artmaking jones without actually increasing the size of my already massive fabric collection. It's called Spoonflower, and it allows you to upload patterns and configure them into a design that you can then purchase as a fabric swatch, sample, or full-on bolt. The upside is, after you "proof" you design by ordering a sample to make sure the colors and so forth are to your liking, you can make your designs available for purchase by other people.

A sample of what's in
The Box. I have probably
a hundred different fabrics
The process couldn't be easier: upload design, tweak size and arrangement, order proof, make it available for sale. Spoonflower handles all the details, including printing with eco-friendly processes on a variety of high-quality fabrics and order fulfillment. You (the designer) receive 10% of sales of your design.

I've uploaded six different images, some from my adventures in encaustic, some from my experiments with oil painting, and one photographic image. I love the crazy 60s pattern they make when printed in mirror image, although I'm sure it won't be to everyone's taste (maybe not to anyone's taste). They aren't for sale yet, but you can see my designs here. Here is a screenshot to further entice you. Make sure to click on each one to see the fabric presentation this way, which is how I envision it.

Spoonflower screen shot ... my designs
I hope to upload a couple more design experiments from my existing artwork and then order proofs and make them available for the general population. I'm obviously not so skilled a fabric designer that I anticipate making big bucks from this venture, but it's fun to see my artwork take on a new form and it feeds my fabric jones in a nice way that keeps me from acquiring more fabric for my hoard.

If there is a fabric freak in your life, send them over to Spoonflower. There's lots to see if they just want to buy or browse, and it's free to sign up if they want to become the Next Great Fabric Designer.